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Tara Donovan’s Slinky Sculptures at the Parrish Art Museum

Tara Donovan’s exhibition at Pace Gallery last summer might have been the most talked about, visited, and Instagrammed show in New York, next to the Koons show at the Whitney, of course. In a time typically devoted to sleepy group exhibitions, when most of the art world is away at Basel and then off to summer anywhere but Manhattan, it was a welcome bright spot in Chelsea for those of us who stuck around. It consisted of two colossal site-specific works, each made from a surprising material, a touchstone for the artist. The first, formed from millions of stacked index cards, looked like a glacial, mountainous landscape with several towering peaks. The other resembled a crystalline cloud, made up of thousands of acrylic rods that from a distance appeared fluffy to the touch.

Should you have missed it while summering out east, you’re in luck, as three new works by the artist are on view at the Parrish Art Museum now through October 12. Donovan’s sculpture, wall-piece, and monoprint were created for the museum’s ongoing program “Platform,” which asks artists to create work in response to the institution’s architecture, context, grounds, and/or environment. “Platform is an important program for the Parrish because we want to continue to be surprised and enthralled by our architecture, collections, and landscape. The best way to ensure that we keep that spirit of exploration alive and front-and-center is to work artists who can and do see things in a different light,” said Terrie Sultan, director of the Parrish.

For the past two decades, Donovan has been creating topographical and biomorphic sculptures and installations that use the massing of accumulated, mass-produced items to transform a viewer’s relationship to objects and space. “In her approach to art-making, Donovan prefers commonplace, manufactured objects—reclaiming and reimagining such things as plastic drinking straws, index cards, pencils, straight pins, toothpicks,” said Sultan. “I think about Donovan as being a bit like the miller’s daughter in the fairytale ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ with her uncanny ability to ‘spin straw into gold.’ Certainly as viewers we gain new perspectives on these materials by seeing them through Donovan’s eyes.”

This time around, Donovan worked with Slinkys in response to the Herzog & de Meuron building. In a recent interview, she told Whitewall that she was most influenced by the scale and volume of the Parrish’s galleries and the natural light that is central to its design. “The Parrish Museum’s new Herzog & de Meuron building is an excellent example of the integration of architecture and landscape, which intersects with my own interest in the development of ‘site-responsive’ projects,” said Donovan. As she had been working with Slinkys for a good part of the past year, “Platform” was the perfect opportunity to debut her latest formations.

In the lobby, Donovan’s 30-foot wall-piece, made of deconstructed Slinkys that were taken apart to lie flat in a curve-filled “drawing,” greets visitors, You’ll find the seven-by-seven-by-seven-foot freestanding Slinky sculpture in the permanent collection’s “Material World” gallery, alongside works by Donald Lipski, Louise Nevelson, and Alfonso Ossorio. A monoprint of the nostalgia-inducing toy is the last part of the project, calling to mind an X-ray or photographic negative with its black background and bright chaotic pattern.

And should a single visit to the museum not be enough of a Donovan fix for you, on Thursday, August 20, at noon, Century Arts Foundation Curator of Special Projects Andrea Grove will host a talk for members, residents, students, and visitors.


This article is published in Whitewall‘s special Hamptons Issue out now.



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Inviting the audience to feel, touch, and experience art in its most dynamic state is “When Forms Come Alive” at Hayward Gallery.


Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.