Tauba Auerbach’s ambition is nothing short of embracing totality and letting its constituent parts gradually assert themselves. Reaching beyond traditional boundaries, dimensions, and categories, she explores new materials, technologies, and ideas. Music, architecture, design, geometry, and, above all, language are embedded, if not visible, in her work.
This show—more like three separate exhibitions plus a “library” filled with materials from Auerbach’s Diagonal Press—exposes the magic of the artist’s oeuvre and the suspension of disbelief required in closely reading it. Operating on the principle of what she calls “diagonal thinking,” Auerbach produces books and prints that allude to and draw on the analog and the digital and on everything in between and to the side—only vaguely helping to elucidate the rest of the show.
One room holds seemingly flat, colorless constructions composed of woven strips of canvas that, from a distance, look like monochrome paintings or fabric, but which when viewed from near and then farther away yield not only painterly shadings but also an unexpected burst of optical illusion, as evidenced in Chiral Fret (Meander)/ Extrusion/Ghost (2015). The effect is architectural, whereby ancient-looking structures seem to project into the room, evoking pre-Columbian buildings assembling themselves stone by stone. It is like a fourth dimension only realized by the viewer’s presence.
In the large room there are sculptural installations on the floor and in vitrines, and very flat paintings lining the walls. Glass sculptures suggesting heating coils and functional implements assume a variety of attitudes when viewed from different angles, and with subtly interlocking constructions, they uncannily convey motion; they also operate like Escher works in the round. Then, taking a techier route are 3-D-printed objects shaped like tools and components of an engine or machine arrayed impeccably as if in a specimen or design display. A Flexible Fabric of Inflexible Parts (2015), an eleven-piece sculpture composed of borosilicate, could be a metaphor for Auerbach’s own infinite tissue of associations.
The paintings offer a striking contrast to the other two gatherings. Each is a closeup of a fragment—of a gesture, of fabric, of grain, or of paint itself? It offers a fleeting impression atop a solid Masonite background, providing an introspective glimpse at the art of making art.
Almost designed to impede access by virtue of their stern intellectual underpinnings, Auerbach’s projects can come off as intimidating, even pretentious, but they are also stunningly seductive and unavoidably—intellectually and aesthetically—engaging.