The Matter of Tara Donovan’s Drawings.
Tara Donovan’s new exhibition at Pace empties out the arena in which she normally works, eschewing a single piece that overruns the gallery in favor of discretely framed wall reliefs. In their own way they present the same beguiling alchemy of material that she is known for in her large scale sculptural installations. From across the gallery the subtle shift between the accumulations of floating pin-heads and the white board grounds transforms the material; they could pass for massive graphite drawings, the pins becoming flickering marks built up on paper. Of course upon closer inspection the material plainness becomes apparent and as they aggregate in shallow space their material density becomes dazzling.
But the show as a whole only hits one note, and the individual works feel interchangeable, be they gradient, dispersion, or puddle. The group as a whole feels like it has been produced to be easily digested by collectors. The varying sizes provide price points of entry into a brand experience that is more manageable than a hangar sized installation and easier to display, but there is no internal logic between the size of the works and the image. I think this weakness actually runs counter to what is usually considered one of Ms. Donovan’s strengths. Here the total amount of work and material presented diffuses out across the gallery walls rather than concentrating at a center of gravity. While I suspect that these works will wind up looking better alone, or in relation to other works, that only goes to their status as commodity.
I do not begrudge Ms. Donovan (or any other artist) a variety of output, or making works that may aim for marketability. The realities of making art, especially large scale sculpture, require the same capital investment that other projects on the scale of architecture must contend with. Sculptors have long funded projects with the sale of drawings, and Ms. Donvan winks towards the sibling hierarchy of media by entitling the individual works as Drawing (Pins). Similarly, the catalog essay by the Drawing Center’s Jonathan T.D. Neil addresses the unique perspective an artist who primarily works in three dimensions brings to a flat surface, but for me the interest has always lay in the dichotomy between schematic layout and direct mark making. These drawings provide neither, but instead point to what they may allow the artist to do next.
Tara Donovan: Drawings (Pins) at Pace Gallery 510 West 25th Street through March 19th.