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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

One Person’s Trash is Everyone’s Treasure

There’s a fine line between genius and OCD. The newest exhibit at the Institute for Contemporary Art is by sculptor Tara Donovan and represents her work from the last decade. Tara Donovan uses common items in large quantities to create incredible, visually-engaging installations. Her pieces look like alien landscapes, undersea corrals, and cells under a microscope. The amount of time put into creating this must have been staggering.

Most of the pieces are untitled, save for the shout outs to the materials used to make them. One piece that really stood out and impressed me is Untitled (Plastic Cups). Over seven million disposable plastic cups are stacked in a large rectangle about the size of two classrooms to form a landscape of rolling hills. Never before have I wanted to belly flop onto a piece of artwork and swim around in it. I don’t know what it is about this piece that makes me want to fling myself into it like it’s some kind of fast-food restaurant ball pit.

Untitled (Styrofoam Cups) is a large cloud-like structure hanging from the ceiling of one room, a bit like Untitled (Plastic Cups) in reverse. The lights from the ceiling filter through the cups giving it an almost ethereal appearance. Many of the sculptures, such as Plastic Cups, take advantage, or rather rely upon, the lighting in the area to enhance them. In Plastic Cups, where the cups are stacked thinner, the gray of the floor shows through a bit, making the color darker in some places than others.

Untitled (Mylar) is one of the newest pieces in the gallery. Pieces of mylar, rolled into tubes then formed into half globes, lay on the floor. As the light shines off the shiny surface of the Mylar it’s like a black and white photograph of some kind of foreign land. Donovan’s work seems to change as you walk around it, seeing the light reflect off it in many different ways.

Tara Donovan’s works are simple and amazing in their scale. I don’t know why some of the pieces brought out the urge to touch them and watch them topple on me. Perhaps it’s the materials: one usually associates piles of plastic cups, scotch tape, and paper plates not as art materials, but as trash. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t see the sculptures as art, but as piles of crap, which may be why I wanted to jump in it. What ever I may want to do to it, Tara Donovan’s work is the best I have seen at the ICA so far. Tara Donovan is on display at the ICA Boston from October 10th to January 4th.