Saturday, February 28, 2009

A place to be from

So, obviously most of what I write here will relate to the goings-on in Chicago. But occasionally I'll travel around to NY or Miami or wherever and I'm sure I'll be finding artwork there too. So while I probably won't get around to seeing it, if you have the means then you must see the Tara Donovan exhibit at the CAC in Cincinnati.

From the CAC's website: "This exhibition is the first major museum survey of the American sculptor Tara Donovan. With sensitivity to texture, volume and the inherent physical properties of materials, Donovan transforms large quantities of mass-produced items [such as] toothpicks, adhesive tape, straws, buttons, pins, plastic cups and Mylar, into stunning sculptural objects and installations." And, "Her methodology of building sculpture through accumulation and meticulous assembly of quantities and amounts of identical items offers the viewer the experience of complexity and infinity."

Tara Donovan, Untitled, plastic cups

We are proud, at David Weinberg Gallery, to have been introduced to Tara through Ren Weschler and were overjoyed at the opportunity to show her work in our space. She is a humble and approachable young woman with talent like a halo. She walks around and sees things differently than you and I and makes sure we rethink the simple ideas of mass and structure. Often interested in objects with no inherent color, i.e.. clear or white, Donovan likes to explore the latent color of that object en masse. Where several million clear straws become a yellow beehive. Where millions of near-clear plastic cups become icebergs. Where reflective mylar tape becomes a kaleidoscope. She's great. Don't miss it if you have the chance to see it.

Tara Donovan, Untitled, toothpicks

Tara Donovan, Untitled, styrofoam cups

The CAC has an amazing history. When I was in Cincinnati, it was always a great space to see artwork. Thoughtfully curated and expertly managed, it was by far the best space to see contemporary works - even if it was above a Walgreens in an ugly box building in Downtown Cincy. It is now an incredible piece of architecture designed by Zaha Hadid as well as one of the premier houses of art in America.

Back in 1990, the curator Dennis Barrie was thrown in jail for obscenity charges for displaying the works of Robert Mapplethorpe. He was, thankfully, found not guilty of those charges and the acquittal of the Mapplethorpe defendants was a major reaffirmation of First Amendment freedom of speech. And Kudos to my mother for taking me (all of age 11) and my sister to see the show and talk to us in an open manner about what the artwork was and what it was supposed to do or say.

Probably the one show I wish I could have seen and didn't get to at the old CAC was Pat Renick's 2068 series. It was a series of fiberglass boat / coffin structures that were reflections on states of consciousness during an episode of her hospitalization in the 1950's. Pat had been given a prescription for what is essentially speed and because of the ingestion of that prescribed drug (which was intended for weight-loss) Pat began to exhibit symptoms that resembled schizophrenia. She was hospitalized unnecessarily and given shock treatment for her "disorder." Her case number was 2068. After more than a year of these painful and needless "treatments" she was finally properly diagnosed and released.

These haunting figures, which are exhibited in an arch, become less human as you progress across the curve of the installation and grow more and more mechanical and suffocating in nature. I have only ever seen photographs of the installation, but let me tell you, when Pat was around to tell her story, everyone listed with their hearts and minds as open as they could manage and you got a vivid sense of what she was trying to say. Remarkable stuff. She'll be loved forever by innumerable beautiful souls.

Pat Renick, from installation of 2068

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