Art of Mystery

There will be 1,375,000 of them. They will cover an area 40 feet long and eight feet high. It will take a team of six people four straight days to install them. So what are they? Well, we can't say.

New York artist Tara Donovan made her name creating large-scale gallery installations from the simplest of everyday objects -- toothpicks, pencils and adding machine tape have all served as base materials in past installations. By multiplying the mundane, Donovan finds the objects take on properties as a group that they never could alone.

"From afar, the exact material is often disguised," Donovan has said. "There is often a point of discovery for the viewer when the sculptural object breaks down into discrete units that are in some way connected to personal experience." With its extensive glass walls, Rice Gallery is an ideal venue for such an installation. The viewer's experience can unfold from more than 100 feet away.

Donovan finds that as her installations develop, they often begin to resemble patterns found in nature. If you're wondering what her Rice installation will be constructed from, here's a clue: Its title is Haze. "This exhibit will take on an organic feel," says assistant curator Susan Van Scoy. "It will have the look of a precipitous material."

The moment when the material reveals itself to the viewer is a part of the artwork itself. If you go, treat the identity of the material like a surprise ending, and don't tell your friends what it is.

Art in America has called this installation "astonishing." This much is known: You will recognize the materials. There will be millions of them. And you will have an "aha" moment. Go for the personal experience. Stay for the free beer.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sarah Heenan