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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Well, All Right: Tara Donovan Wins the MacArthur

posted by on September 23 at 11:31 AM

This year’s MacArthur Genius from the art world is New Yorker Tara Donovan, someone whose work I’ve never been able to get too thrilled about. (Greg Kucera Gallery showed some of it last year.)

It’s not that I don’t see how intriguing it can be. Here’s a 2000 ink drawing that leads the way stylistically into one of her signature assemblages made of everyday materials (this one is Scotch tape, from 2002).



It’s just that her art strikes me as a deeply conservative project in some ways—it takes messy excess (hundreds of rolls of printer paper or thousands of buttons, for instance) and tidies it and elevates it into the world of pretty abstractions and references to natural forms like coral reefs. The implications are occasionally tense—as in a perfect 2001 stack of shattered tempered glass held together only by friction and gravity—but as often the installations are little more than blandly reassuring. I guess their restraint feels to me like a light form of denial or very refined escapism. It leaves me wanting.

This is just to say that I find Donovan’s work worthy of attention but not exactly in the R&D department of the art world, as a winner of $500,000 ought to be. I’m hoping for more next time.

RSS icon Comments


Maybe her true genius lies in writng grant applications and promotion.

Posted by inkweary | September 23, 2008 11:39 AM


Don't lose hope in the MacArthur Foundation. Check out this article on who else is considered a genius.

A genius farmer? In Wisconsin? Charles' head might explode.

Posted by P to the J | September 23, 2008 11:41 AM

funny: i was just reading the wikipedia article on form constants which includes an illustration reminiscent of that ink drawing.

Posted by josh | September 23, 2008 12:19 PM

Well then, props to our local genius: Dave Montgomery.

I've had the pleasure of working with him in rock bands and rock studies. He's totally deserving. Oh, and we share similar opinions about the viaduct.

Posted by smiles | September 23, 2008 12:22 PM

Hmmm, I have to disagree - I love Tara Donovan. The ability to take banal objects and obsessively turn them into something huge and interesting is attempted often by others but rarely achieves the elegant beauty her work does. It goes beyond clever.

Posted by Steven Miller | September 23, 2008 12:46 PM

@5 agreed

Posted by menelaus | September 23, 2008 1:11 PM

I saw a show of her's at Ace in LA a few years ago and it blew me away...Loved it...maybe not genius but that show has stuck with me for years...

Posted by CupsN'Toothpicks.... | September 23, 2008 1:18 PM

@4 : You beat me to it. Montgomery's reward is well-earned for helping unlock our region's geomorphological and ecological secrets.

Posted by laterite | September 23, 2008 1:22 PM

Congradulations to Tara..

Personally I was hoping to see some pen and ink penis and vagina in rape prisons to remind everyone this IS the end of the innocence for 1963 neo-bubble champaign Obama grads from the MacArthur Foundation...

Then again, I always think MY art is worthy of an award.

Posted by danielbennettkieneker | September 23, 2008 1:37 PM

Why does it have to come from the R & D department of the art world? An artist can be great without changing the game for everyone, especially these days when there are so few constraints to challenge. It seems like critics need a new frame of reference that doesn't put so much emphasis on innovation for its own sake.

Posted by yuiop | September 23, 2008 1:45 PM

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