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Tauba Auerbach

 (born 1981)
Tauba Auerbach is active/lives in New York, California.  Tauba Auerbach is known for non objective painting, installation.

Tauba Auerbach

    OW-er-bahk  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from Christie's New York, Rockefeller Center

Compellingly perplexing as well as beautifully resonant abstract surfaces, Auerbach's works take time to unpack visually, giving us cause to consider the implications of, and the intentions behind, her processes of reversal and revealment -J. Hoffmann, Vitamin P2 New Perspectives in Paintings, 2011, p. 34.

Ever inventive, bridging high art and design with the new modes and mediums of the Information Era, Tauba Auerbach creates work that is both sensual and mathematical, melding the bold, heroic assertions of late Modernism with the cool and careful syntactics of Post-modernity.  Crumple IV - one of seven from her 2008 Crumple series -presents the viewer with a canvas of tightly-packed black Benday dots recalling Bridget Riley's Op-Art masterpiece, Fission (1963) or the Pop Art of Roy Lichtenstein, shorn of irony.

At over six feet high, Crumple IV engulfs the view with its commanding scale and dazzling optical buzz.  Monochromatic from afar, the canvas appears as though it has been wadded up and crinkled, only to be re-stretched on a frame, creases intact.  Upon closer inspection, what appeared rumpled at a distance is as taut and smooth as any other canvas. Its dots emerge and the surface seems literally to vibrate and pulsate as the eye strives to apprehend its true composition.  And yet, Auerbach eschews the kind of optical illusion that so often exhausts itself once the trompe l'oeil is comprehended - the Crumple series has layers to spare.  It is, in fact, a transposition on canvas of a photograph of a piece of crumpled paper, reproduced with UV inkjet and fused with a pointillist field of acrylic black dots.

Auerbach's process is thus as important to her Crumple series as its abstract visual textures.  Wit marries instinct, culminating into a work that operates between order and chaos.  Auerbach's process both informs and belies first impressions, revealing a rigorous conceptual framework upon closer inspection.  Should viewers find themselves second-guessing, that is by design.  As Auerbach explains, she hopes to provoke in her viewers "confusion and then clarity and then confusion again." (T. Auerbach, quoted by L. Turvey, "Art in Review," ArtForum , September 2009, p. 230).

Surface ambiguities - a hallmark of abstraction - obey a cool, meticulous logic underneath, placing Auerbach in close kinship with artists such as Brigit Riley and Sol LeWitt, whose exercises were similarly exacting.  So, too, does Auerbach's process give a nod to Art History -particularly in her experiments melding painterly abstraction with industrial, post-Warholian print-making.  Gerhard Richter's Strontium (2005) - named for a synthetic substance used to make fake diamonds - is a clear referent, as much for its underlying method as for its repeating pattern of dots and illusory depth. 

Other points of reference would of course point to Roy Lichtenstein and Sigmar Polke's dot paintings that emerged from the 1960s.  For as large as Lichtenstein looms over any work that uses the Benday dot, works like Polke's Don Quixote (1968) provide the more apt analogue.  While Auerbach clearly fetishes and magnifies the aesthetics of mass print and design culture like Lichtenstein did, she activates those obsessions in a way more closely aligned with Polke - as a means to question and undermine the stability and authority of the printed image. 

Hers is above all a visually tactile oeuvre that the invites eye to probe and caress its surfaces, however illusory.  Crumple IV resists passivity and avoids narrative.  That she has updated ideas like Polke's for today's age of digital manipulation makes her work all the more poignant and exciting.  Auerbach's work exists in a rarely explored, ambiguous territory, in which the artist intersects mathematical, logical and art historical concerns and interlaces them into a rich tapestry unifying both surface and space.

As Jeffrey Deitch describes as "[her work is] instilled with conceptual rigor and philosophical challenge.  She has been able to update the type of conceptual structures in the work of an earlier generation of artists like Sol LeWitt to the digital age... extend[ing] the tradition of modern abstraction painting into a contemporary context, both conceptually and formally" (J. Deitch, The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 7).

As one of today's most talked-about and original artists, her work has found homes in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art PS1, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (where Crumple II resides in the permanent collection); the New Museum, New York; Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin; and The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

Combining impulse and calculus, abstraction and tech savvy, her work is beautiful and beguiling, "collapsing order and chaos into a unified state." (T. Auerbach, quoted in D. Kazanjian, 'Optic Nerve', American Vogue, January 2009, p. 141). 

"Auerbach further questions the strength of the divide between order and chaos in her 2008 Crumple series.  These works recall the 1960s Op art matrices of Bridget Riley, yet Auerbach's paintings have conceptual underpinnings.  In this series, the 'optical' pattern is derived from photographs of crumpled paper, which are meticulously reproduced with painted black dots.  In her illusionistic two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional quality,  Auerbach challenges the limitations of dimensionality and presents the possibility that order and chaos are inextricably intertwined." -M. Norton, 'Tauba Auerbach', 2010 Whitney Biennial cataloge, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2010, p.24.

Biography from Sotheby's New York
I probably think about higher spatial dimensions more than any other aspect of my practice.  At the root of my interest is the question of what consciousness is: what it's made of and what its limitations might be.  As creatures that operate in three dimensions, what capacity do we have to conceive of a dimension that's beyond, or even coiled within, the space that we experience?” Tauba Auerbach

Tauba Auerbach's sensational Fold paintings have received widespread critical acclaim since their debut in 2009.  Minimal and abstract yet immediately recognizable in their distinctive luminosity and delicately textured surfaces, the Fold paintings are rapturing in their elegant beauty as well as the psychological intrigue and optical manipulations central to Auerbach’s artistic approach and practice.

Untitled (Fold), glows with iridescent hues characterized by a harmonious mixture of golden, canary yellow, and green tones, exemplary of the artist's fixation with tetrachromatic palettes.  The abstract patterns that appear as three-dimensional folds and creases are in fact optical illusions deftly crafted by the artist, recently cemented as the defining feature of Auerbach’s enchanting and greatly marveled paintings.  It is difficult not to be drawn in by the rich surface and suggestive textures of Untitled (Fold), and the realization that such voluminous and undulating folds are in fact a perfectly flat surface, simply illuminates the work as a masterpiece of Contemporary trompe-l’oeil.

Auerbach’s method consists of first pressing and folding the canvas, then restretching it after a network of impressions have been achieved.  The raw canvas is then sprayed with industrial paint, often of a single dominant hue with metallic tones, at several angles that ultimately result in a fascinating composition of tonal patterns that give off the optical illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat surface. All Fold paintings have a distinctive pattern and chromatic scheme systematically arranged and paired by the artist. 

Proficient in art, math and physics as well as linguistics, Auerbach has focused her artistic output on the exploration of spatial dimensions and perception.  Through painting patterns, symmetry and symbols, the artist attempts to reveal new dimensional richness both within and beyond the limits of perception.  According to the artist, the disciplines of art, science, math and language are interconnected in that they ultimately converge into one unifying field in how they shape human perception and experience of the world – affecting not only our spatial perception but also our color recognition. Topology, the mathematical study of shapes, has long been a preoccupation of Auerbach, prompting the artist to formulate a system of formulas and methods aimed at challenging conventional logic and perceptions of space.

As evidenced in Untitled (Fold), the artist successfully stretches our limits of perception by essentially obliterating any difference between two and three dimensional fields. Auerbach’s interest in flatness, depth and the unsettled nature of spatial experience resonates with conceptual works of masters from earlier generations. 

When famed Italian conceptual artist Rudolf Stingel covered all the walls and floors of the entire exhibition space of the Palazzo Grassi in Venice with carpets and paintings during the city’s Biennale in 2013, the artist created a complex interplay between two-dimensional mediums and three-dimensional spaces, transforming what were once mere flat surfaces into three-dimensional installations.  Such expansion of a painting’s physical borders translates to Auerbach’s paintings in the optical illusions she creates–placing these objects in a paradoxical state somewhere between volume and flatness and reality and manipulation. 

Such conflation of space, the interplay between flat surface and three-dimensionality, further recalls the works of Lucio Fontana and his famous tagli paintings. By puncturing his canvases with holes and slashes, Fontana essentially gives his flat images a sculpted quality that ultimately elevates the work to a realm hovering between painting and sculpture, image and object with both two- and three-dimensional qualities.

The allure of Auerbach’s paintings reside in their ability to challenge our perception, expectation and logic, ultimately inspired by the artist’s desire to deconstruct existing assumptions.  Her works, as evidenced in Untitled (Fold), are wondrous mosaics of colors that are at once both cerebral and sensual. 

As Auerbach herself proclaims, “I think I always make work about logic in some way.  Taking things that are assumed to be linear and making them double back on themselves or knotting them up…posing questions to myself about the way I was taught to think and reason.  Posing questions about the structure of a question.  For a long time, language was sort of the medium I was using to try these things out, but now I’m working almost entirely abstractly.  There is less opportunity to take this work literally, and I think that shifts the focus of inquiry onto the viewer in a good way.”

Biography from Phillips London
The artist's remarkable oeuvre continuously engages with the limitations of the sometimes hidden structures and systems that underpin perceptible reality.  Specifically, Auerbach is deeply concerned with the points at which theses fail and in turn produce new visual and poetic possibilities.  Through her insightful exploration of such limits, the artist delicately merges both the literal and illusory.  Consequently her work astutely reassesses not only the boundaries between written language and meaning, but also the binary oppositions between flatness and three-dimensionality, order and disorder.  Auerbach describes her work as an attempt to expose "new spectral and dimensional richness…both within and beyond the limits of perception." (Paula Cooper Gallery, Tauba Auerbach Float, New York, 5 May - 9 June, 2012

Untitled (Fold) is an exquisite illustration of these investigations; its form oscillates between the supposedly incompatible second and third dimension, thus challenging the viewer to confront the distinctions between image, dimensionality and content.  The artist articulates her intentions with this eloquent series, "for the last two years I have tried to conjure four-dimensional space.  The Fold paintings are my effort to construct a portal through which to summon - or at least imagine - this inaccessible hyper-spatial reality."  She masterfully utilizes the 'trompe l'oeil' technique that leads the viewer to believe they are observing the three dimensional surface of creased paper. Upon approaching, one realizes the canvas is actually stretched taut over the supporting wooden frame.

The intriguing process used to produce this composition involves manipulating a large piece of canvas into various configurations by rolling, ironing and pressing it, so that folds are embedded in the material.  The resulting creases span horizontally, vertically and diagonally in a grid-like pattern.  It is then spread out onto a flat surface and paint is applied with an industrial spray gun, while still retaining three-dimensional contours.  This mechanical means of production elevates the creative practice to one beyond the artist's hand - indeed, beyond the formulaic patterns underpinning this compelling abstraction.  By spraying a range of tones of a single, monochrome color onto the folded object, the artist further accentuates the ultimately convincing illusory effect.  Untitled (Fold) typifies the uniquely profound meeting of artistic intention and chance so important to the series as a cohesive, unified whole.

Speaking of the gradually refined process, Auerbach notes: "Because I spray the creased canvas directionally, the pigment acts like a raking light and freezes a likeness of the contoured materials onto itself.  It develops like a photo as I paint.  The record of that topological moment is carried forward after the material is stretched flat.  Each point on the surface contains a record of itself in that previous state." (Christopher Bedford, Dear Painter …, Frieze Magazine, Issue 145, March 2012). 

Therefore, rather than being representative, these canvases express actual folds that occurred in time.  By recording a past state onto the finished work, this process produces paintings that exist in what the artist herself refers to as "the 2.5th dimension".   These optical thought experiments are able to destabilize our basic assumptions about the reliability of vision, and open our eyes to the delight of temporary disconnections with an observable reality.  By drawing attention to the process of their own making, Auerbach's Fold paintings reflect upon the cultural paradox between illusion and abstraction and open up a space of possibility for a new kind of realism.

Although Auerbach draws much of her inspiration from mathematics and physics, her visual output intersects equally with the perennial themes of art history.  Conceptually, Untitled (Fold) alludes to the ancient pictorial tradition of representing drapery and folded cloth associated with historically prominent European artists.  By ostensibly avoiding narrative and making the surface itself the subject of the work, the artist emphasizes, in a manner reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s, the illusory nature of painting itself.

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About  Tauba Auerbach

Born:  1981 - San Francisco, California
Known for:  non objective painting, installation