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20

concept

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01 Worker bee TARA DONOVAN IS A ONE WOMAN HIVE OF INDUSTRY

Ace Galle ry

At first sight Donovan's Untitled (paper plates)– a honeycombed and

concertinaed structure that opens out to create a series of orbs, installed at floor

level – is an interesting exercise in form and volume. Collectively these objects

inhabit the space with a pleasing sense of containment, poise and finite finesse.

The crusty, crunchy material from which they are formed, and the familiarity

of the pleating and construction – reminiscent of paper lanterns – are captivating.

Colouration is cool, pale beige and white, and this contributes to an attractive

reserve and quietness. A second work, placed overhead as a series of bulbous

forms composed of repeating circles of white on white patterning in a white

translucent material, is another pleasing hive-like form, with both regimented and

organized patterning and an organic irregularity of formation had the charm and

interest of overlapping clouds.

Tara Donovan's credentials are impressive. Born in 1969, she lives in New

York City, and has had solo exhibitions at Ace Gallery, New York and Los Angeles,

at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, at Akira Ikeda Gallery, Berlin, and

at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Washington DC. Donovan's interest is

in material growth via accumulation and repetition. Her focus is on innate materi

ality, with a phenomenological approach, that seeks to evolve form and structure

out of cellular multiple matter, “It is not like I'm trying to simulate nature,” she

explains “it's more of a mimicking of the way of nature, the way things actually

grow.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines phenomenology as “the

study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of

view” and expands this explanation to include “the study of "phenomena":

appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we

experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience.” There are

echoes of Eva Hesse here, and connections to Susie MacMurray's work, although

Donovan's pieces seem more controlled with a keen undertone of urban banality.

This 'Big Apple ennui' emanates from her use in other works of common and

everyday materials – sticking tape, paper plates, styrofoam cups, clear plastic

drinking straws, pins and toothpicks. The use and transformation of utilitarian

materials initiated in Duchamp's 'readymades' finds contemporary expression in

02

Donovan's work, but where Duchamp was innovative and boundary-challenging,

similar work produced decades later can seem contrived and tedious. The

Duchampian reconstitution of the relationship of art and everyday life outraged

systems of class, object hierarchy and conventions of decency but subsequent

waves of practice that have looked and looked again at contemporary artifacts

as signs of capitalist disposability can seem a little tired. The initial interest that

Donovan's works elicits is transposed into a vague irritation and a desire for

something less reserved.