Tara Donovan, Nebulous, 2008. Cellulose adhesive tape, 3 1/2 x 144 x 144 inches (8.9 x 365.8 x 365.8 cm) (variable). Acquired through the generosity of the Board of Trustees, in honor of Jill Medvedow’s 10th anniversary as ICA Director, 2008. Photo by Charles Mayer Photography. Courtesy Pace Gallery. © Tara Donovan
Tara Donovan often constructs her installations and sculptures by transforming large quantities of mass-produced items—such as drinking straws, straight pins, wooden toothpicks, and plastic buttons—into stunning works of phenomenal impact. She frequently uses the inherent characteristics of the materials to develop her deeply intricate works.
Nebulous appears almost like a mist concentrated over the floor; its uneven shape suggests either a blown-up view of microscopic mold or a scaled-down model of the Milky Way. The work’s title hints at the uncertain perceptual experience that is created with nothing but “invisible” and “magic” Scotch tape. Donovan loops thousands of frosted strips into an irregular airy weave, saying, “Like fog, it becomes so soft. It looks like it grew out of the floor.” The groundbreaking installation signals Donovan’s exploration of the fugitive effects of light-reactive materials on architectural spaces. It has been singled out by the artist as her favorite piece for its successful visual transformation of the ordinary into the sublime.
In 2008, the ICA/Boston organized a survey of Donovan’s work. In addition to Nebulous, the collection includes her mesmerizing cube sculpture Untitled (Pins), 2003, and her rhythmically abstract print Untitled (Rubber Bands), 2006. Not only does Nebulous join these important works, but it also significantly complements the holdings of major sculptures by generations of women artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Cornelia Parker.