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Tara Donovan’s Bulbous, Undulating Works Consider The Beauty In Everyday Objects

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The American artist Tara Donovan uses materials and objects we use in everyday life—rubber bands, pencils, straws, cups—in massive quantities to create large-scale installations, sculptures, and drawings. Her works often resemble the topography of rolling hills, ocean waves, and cloud-like forms.

Massive in scale, Donovan’s sculptural compositions explore themes of accumulation and aggregation. By making use of mass-produced goods that are ubiquitous in society but often overlooked, Donovan’s works force the viewer to reconsider their actions and habits in a world fuelled by consumption. Her commitment to an effortful, laboured, and site-responsive methodology connects her to movements such as Postminimalism and Process Art, with comparisons to artists such as Richard Serra. The visual impact of her sprawling works is a pleasurably profound experience; the atmospheric effects of her art has been compared to experiencing the immersive works of James Turrell. Many of Donovan’s installations use singular materials by the thousands, and the assemblage of these individual components yield to the overall impression of the works. ‘Untitled (Styrofoam cups)’ (2003/2008) depicts a cloud-like form made from white styrofoam cups, bringing the cosmos to one’s imagination. ‘Colony’ (2005) uses a labyrinth of pencils chopped at different heights, bunched together to suggest a contour map of an entire city or island, or the depiction of a molecular structure. Through this process, Donovan considers the beauty in everyday objects, twisting the familiar into something else—thereby translating our inattentive actions into aesthetic works of art.

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Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 10' 1/2" x 14' 2" x 12' 10-3/4" (306.1 cm x 431.8 cm x 393.1 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2015, Slinkys®, 8' 2" x 26' x 1" (248.9 cm x 792.5 cm x 2.5 cm), approximately © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Untitled (Pins), 2004, straight pins, 39" x 39" x 39" (99.1 cm x 99.1 cm x 99.1 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 64" x 52-1/2" x 41-1/4" (162.6 cm x 133.4 cm x 104.8 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Installation view, Tara Donovan: Untitled (Mylar), 2011/2019, Fieldwork, September 21, 2018 – January 27, 2019, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2011, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 10' x 10' x 4" (304.8 cm x 304.8 cm x 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2012, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 36" x 36" x 2-1/2" (91.4 cm x 91.4 cm x 6.4 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Colony, 2005, pencils, 4” x 136” x 113-1/2” (10.2 cm x 345.4 cm x 288.3 cm), overall installed © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Colony, 2005, pencils, 4” x 136” x 113-1/2” (10.2 cm x 345.4 cm x 288.3 cm), overall installed © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam cups), 2003/2008, styrofoam cups and glue, installation dimensions variable © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam cups), 2003/2008, styrofoam cups and glue, installation dimensions variable © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan

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Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan