Tauba Auerbach - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    "The record of that topological moment is carried forward after the material is stretched. Each point on the surface contains a record of itself in that previous state." Tauba Auerbach, 2012

    Exploring the traditional distinctions between content, dimension and image, Tauba Auerbach's cerebral compositions challenge our conventional expectations. Elegant and intriguing, Untitled (Fold) emanates a distinctive luminosity, capturing the gentle rays of warm light across what appears at first to be a richly textured and gently colored crumple of cloth. Upon closer inspection, however, Untitled (Fold) reveals itself to be a masterful, modern example of trompe l'oeil. One of Auerbach's celebrated Folds series, the work is illusory; this canvas is in fact a perfectly flat surface. From afar, it is voluminous, furrowed and tactile. Auerbach's skillful application of paint renders the shadows of an undulating surface of folded fabric, perfectly sumptuous and tangible. Drawing in close, however, the viewer realizes that these voluminous folds are a farce and don’t so much vanish as transmogrify into a flattened facsimile of their former selves, immediately revealing the even surface of the painted canvas.

    This even surface is but only the second layer of this ever evolving and complex painting. Auerbach’s practice and methodology is tantamount to a cyclical question whereby the answer to one element serves to open up an entirely new “problem” for the viewer and critic. Indeed, she herself has stated that “Confusion and clarity—and then confusion again.” are the reactions she hopes to elicit in someone viewing her work. “I think the ideas behind the work are not right on the surface and you have to spend a little time with it to get at the underlying concepts and recognize the patterns. Hopefully the pieces are visually stimulating enough to draw people in and cultivate curiosity in the viewer. I guess I just want people to contemplate how communication happens and how complicated it is.” (T. Auerbach in conversation with D.A. Beatty, “Speak Easy,” anthem, No. 24, September/October, 2006, p. 80)

    Communication and visual perception are inextricably linked – while we use the written word to express ourselves, then it follows that it must also first be digested and processed by the eyes. However, just as reading comprehension is dependent upon the vagaries of syntax and style, so too is visual comprehension dependent upon the physical limitations of the eyes and light. Auerbach’s Untitled (Fold) seeks to directly address the complexities in our own understanding of these faculties and the manner in which they affect each individual’s experience in the physical realm. The choice of depicting folded fabric is paramount to this questioning and could not be substituted then for any other object. The painted canvas acts as both a reflective and reflexive document, at once of and about its own creation and existence. Auerbach creates these visually stunning canvases by folding, creasing, rolling, and even occasionally ironing her canvases until the desired textural effect is created and then utilizes an industrial house paint sprayer to apply varying degrees of acrylic paint in layers derived from the digital RGB color-creation spectrum. As she puts it best, “I think you could make as good an argument for my ‘Fold’ paintings being representational, realistic or even trompe l’oeil, as you could for them being abstract. There is a direct, 1:1 relationship between every point on the surface of the image and that same exact point on the surface in the image. Because I spray the creased canvas directionally, the pigment acts like raking light and freezes a likeness of the contoured material onto itself. It develops like a photo as I paint. The record of that topological moment is carried forward after the material is stretched flat. Each point on the surface contains a record of itself in that previous state.” (T. Auerbach in conversation with C. Bedford, “Dear Painter…” Frieze, March, 2012, p. 104)

    Auerbach’s work, while strikingly contemporary in its production, is simultaneously deeply indebted to the entire history of art in a number of ways from its fixation on drapery to its own dichotomous existence of being at once abstract and real. One of the most striking precursors to her abstractions is Helen Frankenthaler, whose own production methods and luscious chromatic expressions established the liminal bounds between abstraction and realism some six decades prior. Thinning her oil paint and pouring it in ribbons across the unprimed canvas, Frankenthaler created wonderfully expressive abstractions while eliminating her own hand in the process. No longer was the brushstroke the focus of the viewer’s eye; instead the immediate impression of the colorful abstraction gave way to the near tangibility and physicality of the paint and of the canvas, the power of which were no longer diluted by any intermediary obstructions.

    Auerbach's work exists in a rarely explored, ambiguous territory, in which the artist intersects mathematical, logical and art historical concerns and interlaces them into a rich tapestry unifying both surface and space. As Jeffrey Deitch describes "[her work is] instilled with conceptual rigor and philosophical challenge. She has been able to update the type of conceptual structures in the work of an earlier generation of artists... extend[ing] the tradition of modern abstraction painting into a contemporary context, both conceptually and formally.” (J. Deitch, The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012, p. 7)

    Yet, whilst drawing inspiration and authenticity from past, established art movements, the Fold series demonstrates Auerbach’s success in challenging the conventional. This progression and development is reflected within her oeuvre. The artist’s early works were directly influenced by her upbringing in a house of designers. Studying Fine Art at Stanford University and working as a sign painter in San Francisco, Auerbach’s first works employed grid-like patterns and alphabetical typography. She has stated in interviews that her theoretical interest in the symbolism of language was cultivated during this early period, later developing into a broader exploration of meaning, “At the time, I was drawing lots of fonts, and I took the job because I loved letters, both aesthetically and formally. It wasn't that I simply thought type was beautiful, but I was curious about its limitations: how much could you change the letter ‘S’ before it stopped being an ‘S,’ for example. It was at that job where the graphic element of language opened into something more abstract in my thinking.” (T. Auerbach in C. Fiske, “Tauba Auerbach’s Peripheral Visions,” Art in America, June 2012).

    Just as her text based works challenged the conceit of an immutable and permanent language whose symbols could no more be confused for one another than for something else entirely, so too do her Fold paintings question the paradox of an object existing in a state somewhere between two and three-dimensionality, volume and flatness, reality and abstraction. Untitled (Fold) depicts a haptic sensibility through a visual medium while concurrently and emphatically avoiding narrative by establishing the surface itself as the subject of the work. Operating in a gap between conceptual, graphic and abstract art and combining it with a technological savvy, Auerbach has interwoven apparently irreconcilable phenomena into a cohesive surface, creating a beautiful and beguiling response to her ongoing fascination with '”collapsing order and chaos into a unified state.” (T. Auerbach, quoted in D. Kazanjian. 'Optic Nerve', Vogue, January 2009, p. 141).


Untitled (Fold)

acrylic on canvas
60 1/8 x 48 1/8 in. (152.7 x 122.2 cm)
Signed and dated "Tauba Auerbach 2010" along the overlap.

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $2,285,000

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Amanda Stoffel
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New York
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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm