The Pace Gallery
510 West 25th St.: “Drawings (Pins),” through March 19
545 West 22nd St.: “Untitled (Mylar),” through April 9
Tuesday - Saturday, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Using such everyday materials as Styrofoam cups, plastic drinking straws, paper plates, fishing line, rubber bands, and toothpicks, Brooklyn-based artist Tara Donovan creates large-scale sculptures and installations that take on a life of their own. In the summer of 2008, for the site-specific solo exhibition “Tara Donovan at the Met,” she lined the walls of the Gioconda and Joseph King Gallery with thousands of tiny silver Mylar loops, giving the walls a fascinating texture evoking water bubbles, topographical maps, and other formations. In September 2009 at Lever House, she transformed more than a ton of transparent polyester film into a horizontal kaleidoscope visible from inside the gallery as well as from the street outside the front window. The first Calder Prize winner and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Donovan currently has two shows up in Chelsea, again using unusual materials in unique ways. At the Pace Gallery on West 25th St., “Drawings (Pins)” consists of a dozen works that from a distance appear to be shaded gray-and-white ink or pencil drawings but up close are revealed to have been made with nickel-plated steel pins. While some of the works resemble Hiroshi Sugimoto’s peaceful, contemplative photographs of the sea, others are more graphic and dynamic, with circles and rays of light jumping off the white-painted gatorboard canvases.
The more abstract pieces work better than the more fanciful creations, which have too much of a wow effect and lack subtlety, although seen as a whole, the exhibit does a fine job of exploring what catalog essayist Jonathan T. D. Neil refers to as “the phenomenology of perception, the psychology of vision, and the opticality of modernism.” Meanwhile, there is also too much of a wow effect at the Pace Gallery on West 22nd St., where Donovan’s large-scale silver Mylar installation, reaching eleven feet high and spreading out like a fungus across the space, sparkles and shines as visitors walk around it, watching it glitter with the changing light. As with the pin drawings, the Mylar monster is impressive when viewed up close and the process becomes more apparent, but the piece is ultimately more style over substance.