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 Press. 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.