Louisiana Museum Copenhagen, Denmark
8 February - 20 May 2013
Review by Catrin Davies
Hogging the limelight, as Pop Art is prone to do, the Louisiana’s all bells-and-whistles spring exhibition is a punchy recount of the movement’s best bits. But it is in the quieter corners of this beautiful museum where you tend to find the more interesting, humble pieces - the ones that don’t have to battle with a Verner Panton lightscape for your attention.
And in the instance of New York artist Tara Donovan’s compact solo show, the retinal respite is all the more welcome. Emerging from Lichtenstein’s saturated palette, you enter Donovan’s dignified world; a pale and interesting counterpart to the tripped-out frenzy of spots, cigs and Coke cans.
Donovan is an artist who knows how to grab attention with a deft balance of scale, mass, material and form. Her sculptural installations are built from simple, familiar objects, but the simplicity of the component parts belies the meticulous construction process. Donovan clearly understands form and function well enough to deconstruct it and recreate it as something else entirely more beautiful.
Viewed from the gallery above, ‘Haze’ could be a panoramic impression of the sky with soft, rolling clouds; but viewed at eye-level ‘Haze’ is a wave of thousands of opaque drinking straws that have been cropped and grouped to form a gentle wave of shadows across the gallery wall.
The same gravitas is lent to other familiar objects: three compressed cubes - one formed from pins, another from toothpicks and another from crushed glass (‘Untitled’, 2004) - hold their shape simply by force of nature and gravity. They may look a whisper away from collapsing, but this delicate, sensory trompe l’oeil is Donovan’s calling card.
In ‘Untitled (Mylar)’ clusters of silver spheres sprawl across the gallery floor, arranged like over-sized molecules or a strand of DNA, their metallic shine adding an extra-terrestrial element to the free-flowing, organic shape. Walk around it, try and look for the joins’ but you won’t find any, not any that are visible anyway. A crop of acrylic rods (‘Untitled acrylic and adhesive’) has a similar effect, looking like errant Kryptonite or elegant stalagmites, jutting out of the gallery floor.
Playing with perceptions and limitations is Donovan’s signature; she knows how to challenge with her chosen medium, manipulating its structure without changing it to the point that it becomes unrecognisable or loses its tactility. There is a steely strength behind those sculptures, which can be attributed to more than just a glue gun and a good working knowledge of physics.
Tara Donovan: Sculpting Everyday Materials
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.