Tara Donovan’s CD Stacks Are Ethereal Material Bliss

Tara Donovan’s CD Stacks Are Ethereal Material Bliss

For over 2 decades, artist Tara Donovan has transformed everyday objects in her work – from plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, and toothpicks – creating ethereal visual magic through highly-precise unexpected accumulations.  Her latest exhibition Stratagems on view at Pace Gallery in New York now, debuts 11 new towering sculptures that are created from thousands of used CDs.

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gallery installation view with towering totems make from used CDs.

Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems’ at Pace Gallery, NY. \ Photo: Courtesy Pace Gallery

Presented on the 7th floor of Pace Gallery that features massive windows that look out onto the skyscrapers of Hudson Yards, Donovan’s CD stacks rise 7-10 feet tall, creating their own futuristic city as they spiral like DNA-helixes or zig-zag like overlapping accordion crystals. Each is made from thousands of used CD-ROM discs that hold all sorts of data – movies, music, games, or software trials, all acquired by Donovan from eBay or private individuals selling unwanted discs in extreme bulk. Those CDs were sorted by color (green and a goldish sliver), then glued in units of 2 CDs – bonded face-to-face to hide the label.

81-inch stack of gold CDs

Tara Donovan “Stratagem XII” 2024, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

detail of gold CDs stacked in zig-zag pattern

Tara Donovan “Stratagem XII” 2024, (detail), © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

The podcast ‘Art Sense’ recently interviewed Donovan (the full episode is well worth a listen) where she made this comment towards the end of the engaging talk: “The older I get, the more I make invisible works.” Her humorous statement is surprisingly true about an unexpected (and difficult to photograph) element of these sculptures – for all the hundreds-of-thousands of CDs in the room, the sculptures are almost fully transparent at eye level. that effect is not just the result of a particular consideration in stacking design that invites as much air as possible within the structure, but also that CDs are almost completely transparent when viewed from the side! It’s something I’ve never noticed before about the material and a common gift of all Donovan’s work – through her very specific positioning and accumulations, she reveals totally new visual phenomena in materials I’ve seen a million times.

That gradual shifting from solid to transparency at eye level also benefits from the double-tiered quality of this space, constantly inviting you to move vertically as you also circle horizontally.

Spiral column of gold CDs on concrete pedestal

Tara Donovan “Stratagem II” 2024, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

detail of double-helix stack of CDs with transparency

Tara Donovan “Stratagem II” 2024, (detail), © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

woman admires green Tara Donovan sculpture

Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems’ at Pace Gallery, NY \ Photo: Courtesy Pace Gallery

Green accordion-like stack of CDs

Tara Donovan “Stratagem XIV” 2024, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

detail of green CDs stacked in zig-zag pattern

Tara Donovan “Stratagem XIV” 2024 (detail), © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

88-inch column of stacked CDs on concrete pedistal

Tara Donovan “Stratagem X” 2024, © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

detail of gold stacked CDs in intertwining pattern.

Tara Donovan “Stratagem X” 2024 (detail), © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

As our storage of information has evolved from physical paper volumes to “the cloud” (as Donovan puts it), the CD/DVD was a brief step along that path. These Stratagems are therefore more than just brilliant design and intriguing visual phenomena, they also seem to speak to that transition from the physical to the digital, from past into future, all while reminding us that the real world will always reveal new surprises of wonder (especially in the hands of Tara Donovan).

Tara Donovan’s Stratagems are on view at Pace Gallery through August 16th, 2024 and a must-see in real life. Check gallery website for hours, especially as we head into summer months and gallery hours may shift.

gallery view of totem like sculptures of used CDs

Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems’ at Pace Gallery, NY \ Photo: Courtesy Pace Gallery

Installation view of ‘Tara Donovan: Stratagems’ at Pace Gallery, NY \ Photo: Courtesy Pace Gallery

Artist Tara Donovan sits on stairs

Portrait of Tara Donovan \ Photo: Courtesy Pace Gallery

Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.

What: Tara Donovan: Stratagems
Where: Pace Gallery, 540 W 25th St, New York, NY
When: May 3 – August 16, 2014

All images: © Tara Donovan, courtesy Pace Gallery

Source: design-milk

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