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Tara Donovan’s solo exhibition “Intermediaries” is a collection of connected bodies of work transforming commonplace materials into objects that push conceptual limits. Open online and at Pace Gallery in New York through March 6, the show features a selection of free-standing sculptures, drawings, and wall-bound works that Donovan made throughout 2019 and 2020.
Continuing her exploration of art’s ability to connect individuals and their environments, Donovan’s works on view focus on the experience of art in relation to space. The artist plays with elimination and manipulation of materials (seen in her Screen Drawings) and the use of translucent, light-refracting materials that invite viewers to look not just at but through the sculptures.
The exhibition includes highlights like Stacked Grid, an architectural collection of blocks that amplify the space’s white surroundings; the wall hanging Apertures; and the disco ball-reminiscent, transparent Sphere. To learn more about the works on view, Whitewall spoke to the artist.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for your upcoming exhibition “Intermediaries” with Pace Gallery?
TARA DONOVAN: It’s difficult for me to pinpoint where an idea for an exhibition begins because my practice is a cumulative one, in that my experiments with different materials occur over broad stretches of time.
The idea for “Intermediaries” came to fruition by attempting to articulate the interrelatedness of various lines of investigation I have been pursuing in the studio over the past two years. In these works I was trying to isolate this sensory threshold in order to allow viewers to occupy a suspended state where perceptual capacities can be challenged and expanded.
By exploiting—and in many cases attempting to thwart—the logic of the modernist grid, I attempted to approach liminality on multiple registers, whether it be the architectonic scale of Sphere and Stacked Grid, or the painterly abstraction illuminated by the Apertures, or the intimate interiority of the Screen Drawings.
WW: What can you tell us about creating the large-scale works on view, like Stacked Grid and Sphere?
TD: As with most of my work, it all starts with the material. Stacked Grid is made from a PETG material that I had in my studio for many years that I had never considered using as a sculptural medium until I started experimenting with it. I had a sheet that I cut up and when it was amassed there were so many qualities that led me pursue further investigations, not only with respect to its transparent and reflective qualities, but also its fugitive purple edge.
I wanted to create an architectonic volume that wouldn’t require any other materials so that it would appear almost like an apparition. The entire piece is composed of stacked three-inch high lattices of material that are layered vertically in seemingly random and haphazard formations. Collectively they ultimately both occupy and activate a significant volume within the gallery. This references the severity of a minimalist cube but denies any notion of solidity through its disintegration of edges and surfaces into a fluctuating, prismatic, almost liquid-like morass as a viewer negotiates the space around it.
There is a social element to the work in that any other human body in the space is broadcast into the volume as a phantasmic pixelated presence. This effect is brought into striking clarity with Sphere. Whereas Stacked Grid relies on a messy randomness in its occupation of space, Sphere is constructed with mathematical precision to privilege a very specific viewpoint. When facing perpendicular to the hollow rods of plastic comprising the orb, a striking diffraction is performed when another viewer enters the field of vision on the opposite side whereby their presence registers as a granular spectre seemingly trapped in an immersive object of human proportion.
WW: The show also has a few screen-printed works, called Screen Drawings. Can you tell us about how these are made and what it’s like for you working in this medium?
TD: The screen drawings are made from woven wire window screen mesh that has been manipulated, inked and then pressed onto paper. By printing the screen, the material reference becomes obscured since it prints as broken lines that take on a code-like quality of dots and dashes.
Because the screen I am using is woven, I had the ability to manipulate its regularity by literally moving or removing sections of wires. In some of the drawings I am cutting away either the warp or weft in very specific ways to create new grids or patterns while still maintaining its structure. The woven wire has a crimp that flattens once it gets pressed so only one drawing can be made from each screen.