Tauba Auerbach is a New York-based artist whose conceptual work encompasses painting, sculpture, photography, performance and bookmaking. They approach art through science and math, space and time, language and design. Uniting all of their work is a penchant for drawing out patterns in painting, weaving, sculpture, and public work.
Auerbach studied at Stanford University where they spent a year designing rudimentary machines in the mechanical engineering department. They graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Visual Art in 2003. During this time they also apprenticed and worked as a sign painter in San Francisco from 2002-2005. In 2006, they were added to gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch’s roster, and four of their pieces were included in the New Museum’s exhibition of young artists.
Auerbach is more influenced by math than by art history. They focus on human perception with their “Fold” and “Weave” series. In their “Fold” paintings (2009 – 2013), they fold a length of canvas and makes deep creases. They then use an industrial sprayer to spray the surface with paint before stretching the canvas out to produce illusions of three-dimensional wrinkles. Trompe l’oeil surfaces register the traces of their former three-dimensionality, and the paint acts as its own source of light.
In their “Weave” series, they weave strips of canvas to produce monochromes in which depth can be mistaken for painted effect. From a distance these works look like monochrome paintings or fabric. When viewed up close, they reveal painterly shadings and a touch of optical illusion. In 2011, their “Shadow Weave” series depicted Op art-inspired patterns with inter-woven black and white strips of canvas.
In 2014, Auerbach participated in the 2014 Center for Art, Science, & Technology Symposium, “Seeing/Sounding/Sensing.” They discussed their Fold Paintings, Woven Paintings, and books.
In 2009 the same year that they started their “Fold” series, they debuted one of their most memorable works, “Auerglass.” “Auerglass” is a hybrid musical instrument, a pump organ that they created in collaboration with musician Cameron Mesirow (also known as ‘Glasser’). The instrument needs two people to play as each one pumps wind to the other player’s notes. Auerbach and Mesirow played it in several performance pieces; the instrument was moved to Future-Past recording studio in Hudson, New York.
“A Flexible Fabric of Inflexible Parts,” 2015, is an eleven-piece sculpture, composed of borosilicate glass on a surface of painted wood and aluminum, with glass components on top. In 2016, they made a large-scale picture “A Flexible Fabric of Inflexible Parts III” as a theater curtain for the Vienna State Opera. Red images are printed on plastic-nets and are fixed onto the safety curtain with magnets.
In 2018, Auerbach was commissioned by New York City and London to make a public work of art to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I. They took a 1930s New York City fireboat and made it into a contemporary ‘dazzle ship’. During World War I, Dazzle ships had been invented to confuse German submarines. The ships were painted and patterned with optical illusions, making it difficult for the submarines to detect them. Their piece was called “Flow Separation” which is a nautical term to describe the flow of water. They used the fluidity of water as the pattern for their own dazzle ship. They recreated the concept of flow separation by paper marbling in a red-and-white pattern over the entire fireboat.
Auerbach was to have their first museum survey, “S v Z,” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in April, 2020. It spanned 16 years of their career and had to be postponed until 2021 because of COVID-19. When it did open in December, their exhibit presented Auerbach as an avatar of the era of particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and CAD renderings of polytopes in videos, floor sculptures, and paintings. Recently They are working with wafer-thin lattices made from granulated colored glass called frit. They are making a series of frit lace patterns, which they fuse to thicker pieces of solid glass.
Auerbach’s work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum, MoMA PS1, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Turin, Italy. Their work is included in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Centre Pompidou among others.