Titled Flow Separation, the design for Auerbach’s dazzle ship was based on the water itself, translating laws of fluid dynamics into stunning patterns. “Flow separation” is the kind of turbulence that happens in a ship’s wake, which will often create eddies. Auerbach was able to recreate this concept through paper marbling, a process that involves floating blobs of ink on a tray of water and combing the surface to create patterns—essentially using flow separation as a drawing tool. Painted over the entirety of New York’s historic John J. Harvey fireboat, Auerbach’s bold red-and-white design was a sight to behold as it sailed down the Hudson and East River.
A through line uniting all of Auerbach’s work is a penchant for drawing out the patterns in the universe—such as in waveforms, in print, in music, or in time. In identifying these elusive rhythms, she has created a body of work that pokes around the edges of perception and, more profoundly, consciousness.
In describing what the SFMOMA exhibition has meant to her, Auerbach said, “This show has meant facing myself—noticing patterns, both good and bad, identifying and wrestling with the questions I seem to keep returning to, and realizing that I still don’t have any satisfactory answers.” While 2021 may seem like a long way away, when it comes to discovering the limits of consciousness, time is just another malleable construct.