Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 10' 1/2" x 14' 2" x 12' 10-3/4" (306.1 cm x 431.8 cm x 393.1 cm) © Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan


b. 1969, New York

Tara Donovan’s sculptures, drawings, prints, and large-scale installations transform the banality of everyday objects into the extraordinary.

Engaging with nontraditional and mass-produced materials such as Slinkys, Mylar, pins, and plastic cups, her work often explores the physical and temporal nature of accumulation.

Studying under sculptor Kendall Buster while at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. (1988–91), Donovan became acutely aware of conceptual practices, emphasizing the artistic investigation of ideas. Her exposure to sculpture by Petah Coyne and Tony Cragg proved formative, leading Donovan to identify as a sculptor and toward the use of unconventional materials, producing works comprised of man-made objects embedded in cement, thereby refuting their intended circulation.

After graduating, Donovan continued to explore unorthodox materials, creating a work that comprised a wall of accumulated sand-filled balloons, which led to a serendipitous moment of discovery: upon spilling a box of toothpicks she noticed that the objects had woven themselves into a perfect corner, mimicking the shape of the box. With that, she began to build a large cube with toothpicks, which—in its density of small interlocking parts—gained stability as it grew in scale. She exhibited both of these early sculptures in her first group show ArtSites 96 at the Maryland Art Place in Baltimore (1996), and, the following year, exhibited her stacked Tar Paper (1997) piece in a second group show, Options 1997, held by the Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran.

Donovan decided to enroll in the Virginia Commonwealth University’s graduate program (1997–99) and began to work at Hemphill Fine Arts in Washington, D.C., where she was given her first one-person exhibition, Resonances (1998), for which she revisited the use of tar paper—this time as an expansive topographic field. Following her graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University, Donovan received her first museum exhibition at the Hemicycle Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. (1999). Soon after, she was selected to participate in the 2000 Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2000), which prompted her to move back to New York. She began to exhibit with Ace Gallery, and received her first solo exhibitions at their spaces in Los Angeles (2000) and in New York (2001). She was awarded a Tiffany grant from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, New York (2001), through which she met Chuck Close, who became a vital supporter of her work.

Within this period, Donovan was invited by Two Palms Press to create prints, which spurred her ongoing relationship with printmaking and launched her inclusion in her first traveling group exhibition Under Pressure: Prints from Two Palms (2001–03), held at six institutions across the United States. Donovan has been the subject of several major one-person exhibitions, including Tara Donovan at the Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2007–08); Currents 35: Tara Donovan, Milwaukee Art Museum (2012); and Fieldwork, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2018).


Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2015, Slinky®s, 8' 2" x 26' x 1" (248.9 cm x 792.5 cm x 2.5 cm), approximately © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2011, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 10' x 10' x 4" (304.8 cm x 304.8 cm x 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Drawing (Pins), 2012, gatorboard, paint, and nickel-plated steel pins, 36" x 36" x 2-1/2" (91.4 cm x 91.4 cm x 6.4 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Composition (Cards), 2017, Styrene cards and glue, 22-1/4" × 22-1/4" × 4" (56.5 cm × 56.5 cm × 10.2 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Untitled (Pins), 2004, straight pins, 39" x 39" x 39" (99.1 cm x 99.1 cm x 99.1 cm) © Tara Donovan


Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2014, acrylic and adhesive, 64" x 52-1/2" x 41-1/4" (162.6 cm x 133.4 cm x 104.8 cm) © Tara Donovan