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Friday 8 August 2014

Tara Donovan: Untitled

Toothpicks, buttons, pencils, drinking straws, pins, broken glass... Sounds like a list of the random stuff I find in the bottom of the stroller - or my handbag. But for artist Tara Donovan this is a list of art supplies. Through Tara's imagination and skillful hands these every day items become amazing works of art.

We recently visited Pace Gallery in Menlo Park which currently houses the exhibition Tara Donovan: Untitled, a collection of the artist's work from 2000 to present.

Upon entering the gallery we were met with the shining spheres of Untitled (Mylar), (2011). This gigantic piece is made entirely of sheets of mylar and hot glue. The piece looks simultaneously metallic and fluffy, like a bunch of metal pom poms. Or Christmas ornaments. The different sized spheres seem to almost float in the air or balance ever so gently on top of each other.

Bluffs (2013) brings to mind a coral reef or crystalline stalagmites. Can you see what it's made of? Thousands of tiny translucent buttons stacked just so. It's quite beautiful. The girls really liked this one because unlike the over sized mylar balls they had just seen (which they also liked, mind you) this one was more on their scale.

Lola's favourite pieces in the exhibition were the three 36 inch cubes, each one made entirely of toothpicks, glass or pins. And not a drop of glue! In particular Lola loved the sparkly glass cube because, well, it's sparkly and Lola loves sparkly!

The next piece was more than a little tricky to get a good photo of. My photos don't do it justice at all. Haze (2003) is made entirely of white drinking straws. This piece covers an entire wall and brings to mind clouds or cotton wool. It looks fluffy yet it's not. As you can imagine, Lola was keen to touch this piece to find out if it feels as fluffy as it looks. I managed to keep her from touching it though (and all the other pieces) so she's still convinced that this one was indeed fluffy.

Mylar seems to be a popular material for the artist and with it's shiny appearance and flexibility I can see why. Untitled (Mylar Tape) (2007) spreads across two walls and is made of mylar tape. From a distance I had thought that this metallic looking piece was made of nuts (as in nuts and bolts). To me the shape of this piece brings to mind a map. An aerial map of a widespread city set along a waterway. Maybe that's just me!

The spiky pieces below remind me of crystals. Or metal shavings standing on end due to a magnet. The kids thought they looked like the sea urchins from a Spongebob episode. The kids watch way too much Spongebob. Untitled (2004) consists of almost spherical forms made of clear acrylic rods. They're pretty amazing. On a side note, I now want to get some metals shavings and a magnet to play with!

My favourite piece of the exhibition was yet another piece called "Untitled". This particular Untitled (2008) is made of polyester film and acts almost like a stained glass window inserted into a wall. The sunlight shines though an open roller door on one side giving the piece a beautiful glow. The fluid lines are captivating. I could have looked at it all day. In fact, right now I can't stop looking at the photos - which is probably why I took so many of them!

Colony (2004) brings to mind a tiny metropolis made entirely of pencils. As this piece is located on the floor the girls thought it would be fun to drive toy cars around it. Just like a real city. Good thing we didn't have any toy cars with us!

Lola was excited to discover a smaller version of the mylar piece from the museum's lobby. She decided that it was "Lola sized" and wanted to take this one home!

The piece below, Untitled 2006 reminds me of a banksia seed pod (you can see one here if you don't know what I'm talking about) or a loofah! In fact, it's made out of paper plates. Ava was intrigued so she got in nice and close (without touching) to check it out.

Art is supposed to be framed and hanging on a wall, right? Well, maybe not, but the exhibition does include a few framed pieces. Much like the rest of the exhibition these pieces are made of an everyday household item. In this case it's stainless steel pins. The three pieces titled Drawing (pins) (2011) are beautiful. They shimmer in the light

The girls really enjoyed visiting this exhibition. So did I. We were all in awe of the pieces and how everyday items can be used in such a creative manner. It really got the girls thinking about what they could make with items they find at home. I was left wondering how many of the pieces were created. I mean, how does a 36 inch cube of toothpicks stay together without any glue? And how does it get transported without falling apart?

If you're in the Bay Area I really recommend checking this exhibition out.

Tara Donovan: Untitled is showing at Pace Gallery, Menlo Park through the end of 2014. Entry to the exhibition is free. For more details and opening hours please visit http://www.pacegallery.com/menlopark

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