In San Francisco, Art does not hide the mysteries of the universe

SAN FRANCISCO – The past two years, with plagues and political upheavals, have suggested that uncertainty is the order of the day. If it can be hard to remember what pre-pandemic stability looked like, finding the signs to make sense of it all just feels right.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has turned to the New York-based artist and designer. Tauba Auerbach for answers. Characteristically, Auerbach – a Bay Area native – answered other questions, adamantly searching for new ways to induce small variations in our perception of randomness. Aware that the very existence of randomness keeps us going, the artist committed to a hands-on approach of mapping the limits of the knowable.

Since 2009, Auerbach – whose pronouns surname / surname – has maintained a rigorous effort to study both scientific and spiritual concepts, equally inspired by the precision of mathematical proofs. learning, the intuitive features of reiki (a form of healing energy), Qigong (a system of gentle motion) and the inherent entropy of the universe. As a result, Auerbach does not stick to one medium, preferring instead an eclectic mix of painting, photography, design, music, sculpture and typography. Combining the curiosity of a novice with the agility of an expert, Auerbach brings to each project a truly refreshing contribution to contemporary art – namely the belief that the world is still alive. full of miracles.

That idea lies at the heart of “S v Z,” Auerbach’s first museum survey, opens in December after some delays caused by the pandemic. Organized by curators Jenny Gheith and Joseph Becker, the exhibition brings together around 16 years of Auerbach’s creative work on a single floor of the museum. (Along with the exhibition is a notable catalog created by designer David Reinfurt; it features essays by curator and art historian Linda Dalrymple Henderson – all printed in font. Tailor-made lettering based on the artist’s own handwriting.)

The show’s open plan provides independent, slightly angled walls and lenses, encouraging visitors to enjoy Auerbach’s art out of chronological order, so that each aspect of the practice of this 41-year-old artist speaks for itself. It is sometimes difficult to remember the extent of this practice: The writings include a Bible in which all the text is rearranged in alphabetical order; album covers for fellow musicians like Greg Fox and Meara O’Reilly; and publications made through their publisher, Diagonal Press.

Auerbach’s most recognizable works are a series of paintings titled “Crease” (2009-12). Three paintings are seen here, and they serve as the key to the artist’s perception: To create these paintings, Auerbach folded pieces of fabric to create deep wrinkles, then expand the material and spray acrylic paint on its surface. When stretched and suspended, the traces of the three-dimensional folded fabric are each transformed into gradient patterns resulting in textured surfaces of light and shadow. (They were included in the New Museum Triennial in 2009 and the Whitney Biennial, and Greater New York in 2010).

Some 10 years later, the “Folding” paintings continue to captivate with a sharp balance between beauty and precision, Auerbach’s painstaking process fully complementing the paintings’ delicate colors and lines. painting. What they demonstrate is that an artist’s hand is a tool – like a paintbrush or pencil – that can be used to transform.

The The “Grain” series, which started in 2017, builds on this idea, but takes it to the next level. For these paintings, Auerbach designed clippers embedded with fractal and twisted patterns, and then scraped onto canvas covered with semi-wet layers of paint. The canvases, each encased in heavy-duty aluminum frames, stand alone, named for the specific variation of the curve embedded in the cutting tool, and hover somewhere between painting and sculpture. You’re instantly captivated by the shock of electric blue over neon yellow that fades in “Branch leveling machine” and a slash of an interlacing red and black patchwork on a blank background in “A winding arc”(both from 2018). In these paintings, Auerbach focuses on methods and materials that do not detract from a fascinating visual experience.

But the artist’s fixation on scientific theorems and rational systems can sometimes frustrate you. For 2018 video “Pilot Wave Induction III,” Auerbach recorded silicone droplets vibrating at various frequencies in the cone of a loudspeaker to illustrate a (since disproved) theory of quantum mechanics, which holds that a substance cannot exist. in two materials at the same time.

Near this installation hangs a set of multicolored, fuzzy abstract photographs, String “static” from 2009, the inside description of the cathode ray tube. An adjoining gallery “7S, 7Z, 1s, 2Z.” A massive kinetic sculpture from 2019, made from twisted steel cables and soapy solution, it continuously creates large bubbles that mimic the cushioning, connective tissue that holds bones and organs together. we are in place.

While each of these works is mesmerizing – hypnotizing, even – I am skeptical of their ambitions. They seem over-complicated and over-simplified, as if the artist is trading the viewer’s scientific naivety for the sake of dazzle rather than guide us through technical ideas. core of the work. I also have a fearless reaction to these works and to “immersive” artistic experiences – that my own interpretations are being underestimated and crippled by gimmicky gimmicks. flash. That feeling can be especially persistent in a city, except for its transformation into a corporate town by Silicon Valley followers, where venture capital flows and sky-high housing prices have closed. mark all places for really subversive subculture.

To my surprise, Auerbach and those in charge had anticipated this criticism. A project from 2016, “There were and will be many San Franciscos,” is an artist’s book published by the Diagonal Press that deals with the slippery change of Auerbach’s beloved hometown. The pages of the book include black and white images of the facade of an unnamed building in San Francisco. The museum has stacked these at an oblique angle and stored them in a glass case. Seen from different vantage points, the volume resembles an opaque blur, more closely resembling abstract sculpture than printed publication.

Unlike the immediate attention-grabbing works that draw inspiration from scientific phenomena, “There were and will be many San Franciscos” revolves around a history that is deeply personal to Auerbach. Above them website, the artist called the book a love letter to San Francisco – “the good parts, the good people, and the distinctive character that runs through the heart of it”. At the same time, work is a “way to make peace with the fact that the same place will always be different. You cannot step into the same river twice”.

If at first I thought Auerbach was a ruse aimed at making viewers feel small and innocent, what I later realized is that they are more invested in making the mundane feel. lively and fresh. Nowhere is this more evident than in “New ambidextrous universe” (2014), a sculpture made by cutting a piece of plywood into curves with a water jet and rearranging the pieces in reverse order.

You don’t need to know that the urge for this project is a popular math text on asymmetry to realize its strange spark and quirky charm. This is a work of art, somewhat unusual, that makes you wonder if you’ve ever Actually look at a piece of plywood. To create this piece, Auerbach relied on mathematical familiarity, access to specific equipment and machines, and a network of skilled technicians. But further, the sculpture required Auerbach’s willingness to admit their knowledge and skills were in fact imperfect.

This is what makes Auerbach such a fascinating artist, and it shows an astonishing piece of work: Auerbach possesses a humble sense of what we might know and conducts more curious experiments. is the end result.

In the center of the exhibition is Organ Auerglass, a giant musical instrument built in 2009 by Auerbach and musician Cameron Mesirow, who performs under the name Glasser. Fantastical, like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory, the instrument is designed to be played simultaneously by two performers, who must carefully adjust their movements to their partner’s rhythm.

Something excited me watching their performance in the gallery. Colors in “Fold” the pictures seem to than Iridescent; The abstract symbols and glyphs in Auerbach’s drawings seem to vibrate and vibrate. This does not mean that I have suddenly deciphered the scientific basis of Auerbach’s work. But I can appreciate that method and insanity can work in parallel and even have a transport effect.

Tauba Auerbach, S vs Z

Through May 1, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third Street, San Francisco. 415-357-4000; In San Francisco, Art does not hide the mysteries of the universe

Fry Electronics Team

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