Tara Donovan at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

I finally got myself over to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston to see the Tara Donovan exhibition on view there through January 2, 2009. I’ve been interested in Donovan’s work for some time now, and it was great to have the opportunity to finally see her work in person.  Especially when it comes to sculpture/installation work, I consider the experience of viewing the work in person to be the ultimate opportunity to truly understand what the work is about. I remember initially having mixed feelings about Sarah Sze’s work when I first saw a few photographs of the work; when I finally saw her work in person at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, I realized that I had completely misunderstood her work because of the limitations of the photographs.

The majority of the pieces in the exhibition I’ve already experienced through photographs, and it was interesting to note which pieces formulated a completely different experience. This work below is constructed entirely by plastic straws, held in place exclusively by the sheer quantity of straws pushing themselves against the wall.  I was a surprised at how different the experience in person was from the photograph. From my perspective, this work transcended and “disguised” the material the most successfully out of all of her pieces and also had this very subtle but noticeable play on light as your eye moved back and forth over the surface of the straws.

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It’s a terrific exhibition for looking at an artist who truly engages the space, thinks about repetition, pattern, and also the inherent properties of the materials. These are the more obvious themes in her work, but I came away from the exhibition thinking that scale was more important than any other idea in her pieces.

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