In some ways, Tauba Auerbach
deals with one of the essential questions that has concerned artists
for centuries: how to represent the multidimensional world on a flat surface.
But instead of vanishing point perspective and trompe l’oeil tactics, Auerbach
thinks smaller, investigating the intricacies of folds and layers in ways so
detailed they appear like abstractions.
To create her Op art
-inflected paintings, she has ironed creases into her canvases, sprayed
the folds with paint and then smoothed them to record the “two dimensional
shadows” of past actions. Throughout the process chance plays a significant
role in shaping the works, as Auerbach invites the unpredictable nature of
materials into the work. In her prints, as in her paintings, detailed processes
are used to compress three dimensions into two, as in the 2011 series of
etchings “Plate Distortion,” in which crumpled copper foil was used to create
prints that looked like maps of rugged terrain.
A very different technique was used to similar
end in Auerbach’s recent “Mesh/Moire” series of etchings, also made in
collaboration with San Francisco master printers Paulson Bott
. To create the nearly pixelated visual
interference of two grids slightly out of alignment—which calls to mind a
digital photograph taken through a window screen or snapshots of a computer
monitor—the artist pressed an elastic mesh directly onto a soft ground,
distorting its pattern as it went through the press. As she printed the
resulting plates on top of one another in complementary colors (choosing two
plates out of a possible seven), the images inevitably aligned slightly
differently in each of the prints, evidence in the patterns’ stretches and
skews. Combined, each of the original plates loses its identity as it blends
with the other. As the different colored layers overlap and break away from one
another, the surface of the print is given a nearly quivering, iridescent
quality, a sum more compelling than either of its parts.