In Tara Donovan’s magical sculptures and installations, commonplace things—pins, buttons, toothpicks,—are transformed into mysterious monuments through the simple expedient of massive numbers. In one series of site-specific works, disposable cups join together into weirdly beautiful undulating tissue—half cloud, half organic growth. She has massed shirt buttons into pearl-escent stalagmites and pencil stubs into sprawling topographies. The impact of these works lies in the unexpected gulf between the original objects’ familiarity and the strange sublimity they exert when legion.
Printmaking is notorious for the distance it inserts between the materials used (stone, copper, wood, etc.) and the materials seen (most often ink and paper). In the past Donovan has made clever use of the indexical, physical-trace properties of relief printing—building matrices from rubber bands (2006), straight pins (2010) and squished Slinkys (2015). The printed pictures worked much like her sculptures, giving us captivating images from plain-Jane parts.