Tauba Auerbach - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Le Faux Miroir, Curated by Bob Nickas, 5 June - 24 July 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled (Fold) forms part of Tauba Auerbach’s internationally acclaimed series of works that push the possibilities of canvas to the limit. In this particular lot, the artist plays with the viewer’s uncertainty: Auerbach uses the doubt incurred by the unusual choice of materials to question the presentation and perception of the work as a whole. This piece exemplifies the artist’s series in its pioneering approach to dimensionality: occupying a seemingly impossible space between the second and third dimension, the artist herself classifies her work as spanning the ‘2.5th dimension.’ Begun in 2009, this collection of elegantly subtle works engages with the limitations of perceptible reality as well as its failures and omissions. Auerbach explains her manner of working: ‘for the last two years I have tried to conjure four-dimensional space. The Fold paintings are my effort to construct a portal through which to summon –or at least imagine—this inaccessible hyper-spatial reality.’ She furthers this comment to clarify that her works aim to divulge a ‘new spectral and dimensional richness…both within and beyond the limits of perception’ (Paula Cooper Gallery, Tauba Auerbach Float, New York, 5 May - 9 June, 2012).

    Untitled (Fold) is not as straightforward as it first appears before us. The large-scale canvas features a collection of creases that span the work’s length to create the illusion of fluidity and movement across the surface. Yet, on close inspection, it becomes clear that the canvas is in fact taut against the wooden stretcher. The use of this trompe l’oeil technique, which literally ‘tricks’ the viewer's eye into perceiving sculptural movement across the work, is used to great effect. Untitled (Fold) resembles a highly realistic representation of a wrinkled piece of textile, either fabric or paper, but is, in fact, entirely painted on the flat surface of the canvas. Auerbach aimed to create work that blurred the boundaries between states of being, even attempting to penetrate a spiritual, infinite dimension: ‘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’ (T. Auerbach in C. Fiske, ‘Tauba Auerbach’s Peripheral Visions,’ Art in America, June 2012).

    This trompe l’oeil effect is a visual allusion to older celebrations of artistic virtuosity, namely fijnschilder painting of the Dutch Golden Age by painters like Gerard ter Borch. This genre of ‘fine painting’ was meticulously rendered to disguise the artist’s hand, fooling the viewer into believing the fictive reality of the artwork. Through the delicate merging of the literal and illusory, the artist highlights the importance of paradox and contradiction. Her work consequently reassesses not only the boundaries between dimensions but also between surface image and meaning, order and disorder, calculated and spontaneous and finally traditional and pioneering. Untitled (Fold) also conceptually alludes to the Classical pictorial tradition, common in Western art, that focuses on the representation of drapery and folded cloth. However, Auerbach focuses more on the complexity and beauty of mathematics than art historical convention.

    The artist’s own attention to detail and interest in exploring the planes of reality easily place her into the lineage of still life painting, although her own technique is completely unprecedented. In Untitled (Fold), the subject matter becomes both medium and method. The artist’s consideration for and awareness of dimensionality, perception and presentation render the piece a kind of topographical study on the relationship between material states and the interaction of elements. ‘Because I spray the released canvas directionally, the pigment acts like a raking light and freezes a likeness of the contoured materials onto itself. It develops like a photo as I paint. 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.’ (T. Auerbach in C. Bedford, ‘Dear Painter...,’ Frieze, March 2012). The subtle dimensionality she creates provides a compelling optic reverberation.

    In addition to her interest in photographic processes, which embodies the limitations of pictorial representation, Auerbach’s painting process is highly innovative in technique. The method begins with the manipulation of a large section of canvas into various states; rolling, ironing and pressing the material until it becomes embedded with the desired folds and creases. The resulting pattern covers the entire surface without succumbing to a specific or affected directional bearing. This artistic practice mixes mechanical consequence, artistic ambition and prerequisite consideration to create a compelling result. The subtle optical play in Tauba Auerbach’s work is a delicate re-interpretation of Op Art of the 1960s, taken to a conceptual extreme.

    The formulaic, yet organic, patterns underpinning the work are brought to life by the careful blending of artistic intention and subsequent creative conclusion: ‘something like a pattern or formula can be totally personal and emotional. I think that things as basic as pattern and colour and waveforms hit on a very visceral deep level. And this is especially true if something harmonious or unexpected happens within that, because you have to re-evaluate intuitions and assumptions about the most basic things. Any time I am forced to change my thinking, that is a personal experience. I look for that in everything. I want to have my mind changed.’ (T. Auerbach in A. Rose, ‘Tauba Auerbach,’ ANP Quarterly, August 2008, p. 23)

    Auerbach’s acceptance and embrace of providence and the unexpected in relation to art adds multiple psychological as well as physical dimensions to her work. Despite a meticulous planning process, each work is subject to a certain unpredictability that ultimately contributes to its individuality and distinctiveness: ‘…every time I try to do something perfect and ordered I always make a mistake, and that breaks the rigidity of the order, and [I] think that’s the best part. All these experiments [force] me [to] re-evaluate what is ‘perfect’ and I think that’s a good thing, and that is what I hope my art would ask people to do’ (T. Auerbach in A. Rose, ‘Tauba Auerbach,’ ANP Quarterly, August 2008, p.25). The finished piece of Untitled (Fold) thus accumulates a series of pre-determined and uncontrollable actions and records them in their joint entirety to present a cohesive and comprehensible result. The optical duplicity adds to this layered psychological effect: working to destabilise our pre-conceived notions and assumptions on the reliability of vision and perception as we observe what we perceive as ‘reality.’

    Her words also draw connections with the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s; avoiding a clear narrative and instead focusing on the very surface of the work itself. The embrace of history, chaos and method also draws connection to the more recent work of Rudolf Stingel, which similarly questions the conventions of art and rather re-invents the response art can single-handedly provoke. Auerbach's works effectively demonstrated how the development of contemporary art has allowed pure forms to be replaced by hybrid constructions. Influences from further artists, such as the punk nihilist Steven Parrino, are also evident in her interest and interpretation of the monochromatic palette: ‘I’m a really big fan of Steven Parrino. Sometimes I think about what I am doing with my fold paintings as sort of a ‘reverse Parrino’ (T. Auerbach in ‘Built upon an Anagram – Interview with artist Tauba Auerbach,’ Dossier Journal, September 2009).

    Yet, whilst drawing inspiration and authenticity from past, established art movements, the Fold series demonstrates Auerbach’s success in challenging the conventional. ‘The entire point of making art, to me, is newness and to expand your mind, even in some tiny way.’ This progression and development is reflected within her oeuvre. Born in San Francisco in 1981, the artist’s early works were directly influenced by her upbringing in a house of designers. While 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).

    These early works are evident as part of the progression of her artistic practice culminating in the Folds series, of which the present lot is part. Her work intertwines a personal inclination towards mathematical logic with a heightened sense of flexibility and design. Her attitude and process both exemplify the potential inherent in contemporary art today: the opportunity for conceptual progression and the ability to manipulate the viewer into questioning and developing their own methods of observation and perception. Probing and mature, Tauba Auerbach’s paintings are elegant amalgamations of deconstruction and reconstruction. Each of her series pushes its subject to a point of conceptual exhaustion: this dedication to theory and practice.


Untitled (Fold)

acrylic on canvas
203.5 x 152.4 cm (80 1/8 x 60 in.)
Signed and dated 'TAUBA AUERBACH 2010' on the overlap.

£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £1,142,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm