Tara Donovan

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

“IN THE MID-1990S, Tara Donovan was experimenting in her studio when serendipity struck. She knocked over a big box of toothpicks, picked it up, and then noticed that the spilled contents had latticed into a shape that echoed the perfect corner of their container.” Jen Mergel and Nicholas Baume, the curators of Donovan’s ICA exhibition, begin their catalogue essay with this time-honored trope: the studio anecdote as out-and-out epiphany. As the story goes, after this minor mishap the artist sourced some five hundred thousand toothpicks, which she succeeded in assembling into a large, freestanding cube, building it from the ground up as one might construct a sand castle. Since that time, Untitled (Toothpicks), 1996, has served as an iconic point of origin for her sculptural practice and the development of what Donovan terms her “site-responsive” forms. Befitting and recapitulating its

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