Hammer Projects: Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan’s sculptures are born of everyday materials such as scotch tape, drinking straws, paper plates, and Styrofoam cups. Donovan takes these materials and “grows” them through accumulation. The results are large-scale abstract floor and wall works suggestive of landscapes, clouds, cellular structures and even mold or fungus. She considers patterning, configuration, and the play of light when determining the structure of her works but the final form evolves from the innate properties and structures of the material itself. In her words, “it is not like I’m trying to simulate nature. It’s more of a mimicking of the way of nature, the way things actually grow.”

Hammer Projects are curated by James Elaine.


Tara Donovan was born in 1969 and lives in New York City. She received her M.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999. Recently she has had solo exhibitions at Ace Gallery, New York and Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Akira Ikeda Gallery, Berlin; and the Corcoran College of Art and Design’s Hemicycle Gallery, Washington, D.C. Group exhibition venues include Cooper Union, New York; Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusets; and Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In addition, her work was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial. Articles on Donovan’s work have appeared most recently in the Village Voice, the New York Times, Artforum, and W.


By Paul Brewer

Tara Donovan’s work is easily recognized as a descendant of various legacies associated with the transposition of utilitarian materials. In stretching the contextual boundaries of the gallery to accommodate the rebirth of common manufactured objects, Marcel Duchamp’s scandalous “readymades” opened a veritable floodgate. Many artists quickly exploited the newfound opportunities his conceptual formula provided and, in so doing, formed a lineage of resonant practices contingent upon the relationship of art to everyday life evident in nearly every movement leading up to the defining plurality of contemporary artistic production.

The investigations of Process, Minimalist, and Postminimalist artists—led by Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, and Richard Serra—are consistently cited by critics and the artist alike in discussions of Donovan’s work. The same goes for contemporary artists such as Tony Feher, Tom Friedman, Tim Hawkinson, and Sarah Sze, all of whom share a concern with disposable artifacts expelled by the frenzied machinations of capitalism. Certainly, in categorizations of media and process, innumerable associations and affinities such as these can be supported, but in an actual encounter with Donovan’s work, other precedents situating themselves firmly in the arena of perception intermingle to dramatic effect. It is from the endowments of artists such as Robert Irwin and James Turrell, who so affectingly demonstrate our primal connections to light and space, that Donovan prodigiously borrows an adherence to the guiding principles of phenomenology.




Paul Brewer is an independent curator and writer based in New York.


Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and members of the Hammer Circle.

Tara Donovan's residency is made possible by a grant from the Nimoy Foundation.

In-kind support for Lure, 2004 provided by Remington Arms Company, Inc.