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Tauba Auerbach - Beyond The Perceptible

“I’m interested in textile and graphic design, but I’m not trying to do design myself. I’m trying to make things that help me (and hopefully others) study and commune with the fabric of space and time.” (1) Tauba Auerbach

Tauba Auerbach started her monochrome Weave series in 2011. Cutting strips of the canvas and weaving them into geometrical patterns, she created an optical illusion defeating the distinction between 2D and 3D. Where one expects painting, there’s nothing but the original canvas. Where one expects flatness, there is depth and an asymmetrical, yet repetitive topography.

“I use a lot of patterns because it just seems natural to me. The world is full of patterns, and the recurring ones show us something about the structure of the universe (...) For me, weaving is topologically interesting. And it is such an early and pivotal technology, so I have a lot of reverence for it. Making patterns in weavings is an activity I’ve found to be rich and boundless and challenging— making me think differently and become more sensitive to subtlety and rhythm.”

The Fold painting series (2009-2013) looks like a collection of colorful, wrinkled fabrics. But the apparent texture is deceiving, and those who would try to touch its softness would be surprised to find the hardness of a canvas. The artist indeed twisted and folded its surface, creating random creases that she later highlighted with acrylic spray. The present, flat state of the piece, therefore, presents a trompe l’oeil of its past three-dimensional configuration.

The possibility of space beyond the immediately visible, reachable, is at the center of Auerbach’s thinking. In that sense, she can be seen as part of a long lineage of artists such as Lucio Fontana, that used to slash his canvas (Tagli series), in order to evoke an abyss beyond the picture plane and the infinite dimensions of the universe (2).

“I probably think about higher spatial dimensions more than any other aspect of my practice. At the root of my interest is the question of what consciousness is: what it’s made of and what its limitations might be. As creatures that operate in three dimensions, what capacity do we have to conceive of a dimension that’s beyond, or even coiled within, the space that we experience? What if this 3D volume that is our space is in fact the surface or boundary of a 4D volume, just as a 2D plane is the boundary of a 3D volume, and so on down the line? You’re right that the “Weave” and “Fold” paintings have a teeter-tottering quality: they oscillate between being flat surfaces and 3D objects. My thought was that if the work could soften the distinction between 2D and 3D states of being, it could efface, or at least imply the possibility of effacing, a similar distinction between 3D and beyond. Like a portal through which one might think about these things. I guess the attraction stems from a kind of faith that something beyond what is perceptible exists and can be imagined, even if it can’t be experienced.” (3)

These oscillations between 2D and 3D are also to be found in her more recent series, Extended Objects, which started in 2018. These paintings, in which she explores the fluid dynamics, display almost organic patterns that seem to vibrate and whirl despite their immobility. Though created with another technique, they pay respect to the paper marbling tradition. (4)


Tauba Auerbach was born in 1981 in San Francisco and studied Fine Arts at the University of Stanford, California. Her multidisciplinary practice is informed by her interest in science and technology as much as her love of craftsmanship. She aims at exploring "the limits of our structures and systems of logic (linguistic, mathematical, spatial)", through different means : from weaving to paintings, installations, sculptures or even musical performances.

In 2013, she founded the Diagonal Press, through which she releases ''publications in open editions,” where “nothing [is] signed or numbered." She lives and works in New York but she has exhibited worldwide, including in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and at the MoMA P.S.1’s Greater New York (2010) and for one person exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London for The New Ambidextrous Universe (2014).

Until recently, textile was not given much attention by the art world. "(Weaving) had always been a central part of artistic practice everywhere in the world. (...) But indeed it was marginalized because it was associated with women", notes Cosmin Costinas (6), curator of the Woven exhibition at Frieze London (2019). This seems to be changing, and Tauba Auerbach is part of a new generation who fully integrate textile techniques in her work, getting it recognize as any other art practices.

Footnotes and links :


Woven canvas on wooden stretcher

60 x 45 inches

152.4 x 114.3 cm

Photo: Vegard Kleven


Acrylic on canvas / Wooden stretcher

72 x 54 inches

182.9 x 137.2 cm

Photo: Vegard Kleven


Acrylic on canvas / wooden stretcher and aluminum frame

14 x 18 inches

35.6 x 45.7 cm, frame: 15.25 x 19.25 x 3.5 inches 38.7 x 48.9 x 8.9 cm

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