Meeting Tara Donovan and seeing the large scale of her studio was very memorable. It was amazing to see how many projects were being worked on at once. I understand how Donovan needs assistants because due to her success, the scale of her works, and the amount of projects she has going on at once, in conjunction with experimenting with many materials at once, I can imagine that her process can become hectic. Having assistants can also offer a new set of critical eyes and insight.
Donovan was very thorough in describing her process and I really got a sense of her thinking and creative process. We also got to hear her discuss what works for her and what didn’t, and how she came to these conclusions. I found it interesting how Donovan hardly ever creates drawings or exact plans for her work, but rather allows the material to lend itself to transforming its form. There is a sort of organic quality in doing this, and perhaps even a sense of chance involved within the work. Donovan talked about how works can take a while to create and how often the materials can elicit a need to problem-solve in order to make a piece work together. There is a sense of both heaviness and lightness within the works.
I really enjoyed seeing the different aspects of the studio. The work that I favored was the works utilizing black drinking straws. Just by piecing the works together with tape and arranging them in various ways, Donovan was able to play with texture and the contrast between matte and shiny qualities the materials evoked. It was truly amazing to see how one material can be reworked into such dynamic and vivid forms.
The effect of light is imperative in Donovan’s work. In an interview, Donovan states, “Transparency and reflectivity are important, because those traits respond to light, and they can be amplified or subdued according to the conditions in the space.” I noticed how the artist works with more neutral tones, and especially with mostly black, white, and clear tones. In this way, the power of light and its influence can truly transform and “amplify” or “subdue” the experience viewers have with the sculptures. Donovan talked about how she was setting up an exhibition and took days to alter the lights in the space in a careful and precise manner. She used careful measurements and worked meticulously to ensure that the light would help ignite her sculptures and being them even more to life. I think this story spoke very clearly about her dedication as an artist and her precision and methodology when creating works.
I also really enjoyed the prints that Donovan produced and it was really unique to be able to see a proof being made. It reminded me of our conversation with Justin Israels and the collaborative efforts that occur in the process. Donovan’s work seems to be very hands-on and process-based, much like printmaking. She sees what works and what doesn’t, and then decides how she can work to solve these questions and issues in her sculptures, and in her prints. I think the prints and sculptures respond well to each other, but also contrast each other to evoke a deeper narrative and conversation among all the pieces.
In the afternoon we visited the Noguchi museum. It was exciting to visit this space after visiting with Donovan. The works shared some similarities, such as in their refined and somewhat minimal approach. Yet, both played with tension and weight and the mark-making that is adopted within creating these works. Both Donovan’s work and Noguchi’s work seems contemplative and full of interesting texture. They are heavily influenced by the material they choose to work with for each work. I think that within both artist’s works there is a sort of meditative essence that allows you to slow down and focus on the object in front of you rather than the chaos in the world around you.
(image courtesy of Tara Donovan https://www.pacegallery.com/)