New York–based artist Tauba Auerbach is interested in the nuances that exist between artistic genres and how to unravel what we are programmed to see by applying unexpected visual cues to disciplines spanning graphic design, architecture, painting, installation and sculpture.
Her typographical ink paintings, for instance, transform letters into protracted ribbonlike patterns, while her delicate rainbow paintings appear to be crumpled and creased thanks to her trompe l’oeil brushwork.
The thread that binds Auerbach’s various work is her exactitude of execution and applied sense of order, which she uses to convey complex ideas with aesthetic clarity. A case in point is her oversize pop-up book titled [2, 3], published by Auerbach and Printed Matter in 2011, which features six die-cut paper shapes that unfold into intricate geometric sculptural forms.
Here, the artist reveals a place caught between two realities: the flat 2D world of a book in which destinations of the mind are unknown until the pages are explored, and the structural concreteness of a 3D form, which is often perceived as an absolute. Auerbach seizes upon the idea of ambiguity and shares it between the two orders, blurring the lines between “book and build” to create her own shape-shifting story.
Peter Kraus, founder of Ursus Books in Manhattan, describes Auerbach’s [2, 3] as an interactive art piece that engages the imagination. “Much like artist Olafur Eliasson’s textless and laser-cut book, Your House (2006), you are able to engage with this piece in a totally unique way by unfolding the pages to create something magical,” Kraus says. “Auerbach’s works can reach vast amounts at auction, so this is a more democratic way of investing in something very special by the artist.”
An unusual chapter of nonfiction also features in the history of Auerbach’s pop-up work of art: Most of the 1,000 published copies were destroyed when Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters overtook Printed Matter’s basement in Manhattan, where the books were stored, making it an exceptional (and now even more rare) objet d’art with a colorful backstory.
According to Kraus, the book’s real power lies in its disruption of conventions. “Over the course of my 50-year career, one thing I have fought for is to get people to display books,” he says. “Most regard books as a spine on a shelf, so this volume represents a completely different way of engaging with such an object. You can display it in a multitude of ways. The combinations and possibilities are endless.”