Viewed from afar, Tara Donovan’s artworks often look like massive pieces of moon-scape, dropped straight from space into a pristine white gallery. It’s only when you draw closer that you realize these pieces aren’t alien at all: They’re made of simple, everyday stuff, whether it’s thousands of pencils or coffee cups or drinking straws gathered into hills and clouds occupying entire rooms. Donovan, a certified MacArthur Foundation genius, is the closest thing the art world has to a true alchemist, transforming the detritus of everyday life into sheer beauty.
In her latest show, at Pace Gallery in New York through March 19th, Donovan departs from her usual formula of sculptural installations that take up entire rooms. Instead, she’s using thousands and thousands of push-pins to create images up to eight-feet tall. Viewed in person, the pieces shimmer and dance; formally, they look like homages to minimalist gods such as Agnes Martin or Kasimir Malevitch.
But where those works can be chilly and almost devoid of a human touch, you can’t help but feel Donovan’s hand in these pieces, meticulously pushing each one of those pins into place, backing up to gauge her work, and starting all over again.