Art infused with engineering: Tauba Auerbach comes home for SFMOMA survey show

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Exhibit: SFMOMA’s “Tauba Auerbach — S v Z” and mural “2020” are drawn along a curved wall. Photo: Matthew Millman Photo

Looking back at the roots of their practice, interdisciplinary artist Tauba Auerbach sees several repetitive themes dating back to his childhood in San Francisco. Bookmakers are a long-standing passion of the artist who founded Diagonal Press in 2013, in addition to paintings, sculptures and installations. I am also continuously fascinated by the spiral shape of the spiral.

The first research show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Taubaauerbach — S v Z, focuses on these interests and the artist’s exploration of concepts related to vision, structure, geometry and physics. Has been done. The art will be held on Saturday, December 18th and will be on display until May 1st.

Auerbach, who grew up in a house in the Marina district while they were preparing for the show and now lives in New York with his partner Lele Saveri, has an early work that now foretold some of his work at the museum. discovered.

“My mother has drawn a lot of artwork, photos, etc. since I was a kid. One of the things she pulled out was a book,” Auerbach says. “It’s a recycled jewel, a book tied to these rings that are small spirals. And it’s those pens that have a motor in it to make it vibrate when you’re drawing. It’s made of one. It’s a collection of pictures of small coils. “

Awarded by SFMOMA’s 2008 SECA Awards for up-and-coming Bay Area artists, Auerbach is highly regarded for his interdisciplinary approach. As Rachel Charner wrote in a March 2016 Artforum review, critics may admit that they were “sent into a hole in the rabbit’s unfamiliar mathematical and scientific terms.” Auerbach attributed some of these concerns to growing up near the old Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts and to his basic curiosity about how things are made. increase.

However, even though the work relates to advanced concepts of mathematics, science, and dimensions, Auerbach believes that the background of these subjects is not a prerequisite.

“I don’t want to present equations to people,” says a 40-year-old who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Stanford University after studying mechanical engineering for a year. “I would like to present them with something like the relationship between two colors that vibrate in a particular way.”

For Joseph Becker, an architectural and design associate curator at the exhibition co-curator SFMOMA, and Jenny Gheith, an assistant curator for painting and sculpture, the confluence of ideas found in “S v Z” is focused. Not only did I touch on the fields I am working on, but I am also expanding. Their study.

“I think Tauba’s curiosity is really contagious,” says Gace. “They are very generous in breaking down very complex theories and methods and have this method of opening and making them available.”

New York musician Cameron Mesiro (aka Grasser) is a friend of the artist and co-creator of an interactive piece called the Auergrass Organ.

Auerbach has been deeply involved in the design of San Francisco’s exhibitions, including the “rotational symmetry” black walls and typefaces of the exhibition. Auerbach admits that he was the first to find outlook for a “surprisingly strange” research show at such a young age.

“Originally, when this was planned (2020), I really felt,” Oh, I’m not completely ready for this. ” I felt it was too early to look back, so I actually resisted for years, “they recall. “It was also very educational to have to be encouraged to give shape to everything, everything.”

With the completion of the show, Auerbach is now looking forward to what they see as the next step in their career. One hope is that people can move beyond worrying about the need for background knowledge related to their work.

“I think I started in a really analytical place, but now I’m in a more comfortable place,” says Auerbach. “I want the artwork not only to hit your heart, but to hit you everywhere in your body.”

Here are some of the exhibition’s concepts and unique works.

“ZS Letters (3D)”, 2015. Photo: SFMOMA


The spiral shape is a repeating shape in Auerbach’s paintings, weaving and sculpture.

“We are familiar with the shape and I think we feel it well, even if we are not aware of it,” says Auerbach.

Becker points out that the letter S and Z shapes in the show title are reminiscent of that shape. “The connection with the helix (in Auerbach’s study) also connects to the connective tissue, the fascia,” says Gheith.

Throughout the show, viewers find repeating forms and make the spiral a figurative connective tissue of Auerbach’s work for 17 years.

“7S, 7Z, 1S, 2Z” is on display at SFMOMA in “Tauba Auerbach — SvZ”. Photo: Matthew Millman Photo

“7S, 7Z, 1S, 2Z”

This dynamic sculptural installation is made up of steel cables in which seven groups of seven strands are spirally twisted and then twisted together in opposite directions. The structure is then opened and closed by a motor, which can form a foamy soapy circular film between the cables. It derives from a mixture that is continuously pumped throughout the structure, where the liquid collects at the bottom and is pumped back to the top.

Auerbach says the idea for this work was inspired by thinking about “something that brings something to life.” Auerbach says.

This work continues to evolve as the curator learns how to react over time and what is the best soap mixture to get the desired results.

“There is daily maintenance to maintain the most elasticity and iridescent color of the soap,” says Becker.


Auerbach’s interest in lettering and symbols dates back to the charm of handwriting, which returned to his childhood. All typography used in exhibitions and catalogs is designed by Auerbach.

While living in San Francisco, Auerbach worked as a painter, especially at the New Bohemian Autograph. Learning graffiti was also a component of their education, says Auerbach. Graffiti is pushing the limits of readability. “

“Auerglass Organ” (2009) was created by Tauba Auerbach in collaboration with Cameron Mesirow, also known as Glasser. Photo: Matthew Millman Photo, courtesy of SFMOMA “/ © Matthew Millman”

Auer glass organ

Auerglass is a pump organ created by Auerbach and Mesirow in 2009 and cannot be played alone. Each of the two players has a keyboard with alternating notes on a 4-octave scale, each relying on the other player to pump the wind needed to enable the other notes.

“The organ really followed the concept of wanting to create an interdependent instrument,” says Auerbach. “But there is a third letter in the equation, it’s an organ. It feels non-linear, the pitch is curved, it’s not perfectly consistent, it has few squeaks, cracks, whistles, and it’s not like any other sound. There are certain sounds that sound like different colors. “

Organ performances are planned for the entire exhibition and a special program will be announced on February 3rd.

“Tauba Auerbach — S v Z”: Thursday from 1 pm to 8 pm. Friday to Monday from 10 am to 5 pm. Until May 1st. $ 19 to $ 25. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third Street, SF415-357-4000.

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