Tauba Auerbach: Tetrachromat
WEILS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
22 March - 2 June 2013
Review by Evelyn Simons
Tetrachromat, an exhibition of the New York-based San Franciscan artist Tauba Auerbach, is on display until the 5th June at contemporary art centre WIELS in Brussels. Auerbach’s work covers a wide spectrum of artistic disciplines, an approach that characterizes her conception of art. Medium and idea determine each other, but every artwork or series corresponds to her central concerns: language and continuity.
Auerbach studied fine art at Stanford University, which she complemented with courses in mathematics and physics. Graduating in 2003, she was obsessed as ever with the alphabet, and so started out as a sign painter. The inconceivable idea that literature and our written communication are based on only 26 letters, bred a fascination for logical systems - language specifically - and society’s confidence in them. This fascination proved to be a consistent concern across the artist’s career. Later on, her focus shifted towards the language of binary codes, which first interested her because it is the most basic of structures, and yet is used in our most advanced technology.
Tetrachromat shines a light on several series in Auerbach’s oeuvre, which all share the same (seemingly contradictory) combination of handmade and crafted objects, created in a rather mathematical way. The artworks that make up the Weaves series are the most explicit examples of this approach; strips of canvas are woven together, forming monochromatic or dichromatic visualisations of mathematical rationality. Auerbach injects movement and a third dimension into an otherwise flat surface. The resulting image is always a staging of the third dimension.
The several ‘editions’ of the RGB Colorspace Atlas (2011) function as an almost theoretical instrument for Tauba Auerbach’s practice. Together they form the materialisation of the entire colour spectrum, composed of three-colour combinations. Conceivable for tetrachromats, the 16.7 million pixels are perceived in a more nuanced way by this very limited group of people (for genetic reasons only women), that have a fourth colour receptor in their eyes, through to which they are able to perceive a fourth colour dimension.
Folds are the group of works that are seen to have made Auerbach famous. These trompe-l’oeil paintings, created by spray-painting folded canvasses from different directions before putting them on the stretcher, correspond to substantial concerns in Western artistic tradition. Auerbach represents the third dimension on the two-dimensional flat canvas, not by using the method of the linear perspective, but with an unconventional technique that is modern in its pragmatic simplicity. These artworks exist somewhere in between the second and the third dimension, or the 2.5th dimension according to Auerbach. The Folds series combines haptic and optical features in one artwork, which recalls the pictorial tradition of the Flemish Primitives and the Italian Renaissance who have since been known for their mastery of the representation of heavy draperies and folds.
Also on display are the Marble Book and Wood Book, both created in 2011. The titles of the works speak for themselves: they reproduce a piece of marble and a piece of wood, presented in the form of a book. As simple as this concept may seem, the creative process demanded lots of time and patience. Auberbach literally scanned a piece of marble or wood 55 times, each time grinding off a layer. The scans were then printed digitally and bounded into a book format, the edges hand-painted by the artist. The simulated chunk of marble and wood respectively is presented as the sum of the two-dimensional surfaces that together form a three-dimensional object. They yet again refer to the continuity of Auerbach’s universe: an artistic universe that is as diverse as it is coherent in its almost manic precision.