Tauba Auerbach is a San Francisco and New York-based artist first known for her text-based paintings. She has since broadened her scope, adding photography and instrument making to her repertoire. Auerbach–in addition to Jean Luc Godard, the subject of my last post–is a non-designer who inspires my design practice.
A: Hello Tauba. What is your view?
T: This is the floor in my studio right now. I’m making a book of these photos—these shapes are a wonderful side effect of the paintings I’ve been making recently. I’m painting with a big industrial paint sprayer and this is the overspray.
A: Tell us about your last show Here and now/and now where at Deitch Projects.
T: Here and now/and nowhere just came down in New York. There were two groups of paintings, the “crumple” series and the “fold” series, a group of photographs of TV static images and then the centerpiece of the show, a 16-foot long, two person pump organ that I designed and played daily with my friend Cameron Mesirow (aka Glasser). It’s called the Auerglass. Cameron and I sit on opposite ends of the instrument and I have to pump to supply the air to her and she has to pump to supply air to me. We each have a keyboard with every other note of a four octave range, so we have to play together to create a complete scale.
A: What common themes run through your work and how have they evolved from your first solo exhibition How to Spell the Alphabet in 2005?
T: I think I always make work about logic in some way. Taking things that are assumed to be linear and making them double back on themselves or knotting them up…posing questions to myself about the way I was taught to think and reason. Posing questions about the structure of a question. For a long time, language was sort of the medium I was using to try these things out, but now I’m working almost entirely abstractly. There is less opportunity to take this work literally, and I think that shifts the locus of inquiry onto the viewer in a good way.
A: Your earlier work sought to control and organize randomness, to highlight patterns and/or anomalies in language, numbers and the structures of both. Since your recent work is more abstract, I wonder if there is a conceptual connection between your older and newer content? Is there a relationship between alphabets and static?
T: It’s all potential information. Not information in and of itself, but the material from which information is cast. I actually have not been trying to organize randomness, quite the opposite. I’ve been trying to find and produce randomness, but I keep finding patterns and organization instead. Both seem to insinuate themselves everywhere. I’m trying to have no control, and it seems impossible.
A: Is it true that you were a sign painter? Does that experience influence your body of work?
T: It’s true. I used to be a sign painter. I did it for three years and learned the traditional lettering techniques that are passed down through apprenticeships. It was wonderful. I don’t really use those techniques now, but I used to when I was doing a lot of text-based work. The techniques mostly have to do with stroke order, brush rotation, and letter spacing. For me, becoming a good sign-painter was about being attune to the sweet spot between something precise and something loose or natural, and on that same continuum, their negative analogues: something rigid or something sloppy. Sign painting isn’t about extremes, it’s about balance, and that’s something that I think continues to influence my work.
A: You have received a fair amount of attention from the design community, and have been featured in Grafik. What do you think of the fact that designers are inspired by your work?
T: It used to really bother me when I’d be compared to a designer. To me, it meant that people were looking superficially at what I was doing, thinking only about the way my work looked and not what it said or asked. But I also think that many in the art world wrongly look down their noses at design, the endeavor in and of itself, and that is just stodgy and silly. Good design is exciting to me. The ingenuity and creativity it takes to make a practical object that solves a problem or functions well is just as valuable as the creativity and courage it takes to make thought-provoking, challenging and honest artwork. And parallel to my art practice, I’ve always made objects that were purely decorative or functional. Lamps for my house, clothing and jewelry, big award buttons for my friends to wear on their jackets, decks of playing cards. Every year I make calendars for all my friends. I just enjoy making things.
A: What are your influences?
T: Puzzles, tile work, miracle fruit, bells, Mauve Deep
A: Who are your collaborators?
T: Cameron Mesirow (aka Glasser). Cameron and I have been close friends for years and we just designed the Auerglass together. Together we ARE Auerglass, the name of our collaboration. We are currently designing our second instrument and making a small object edition.
A: Do you have a new project underway? Where might we see your work this year?
T: I’m working on a large scale, very complicated pop-up book that will be put our through Printed Matter. I am making some eyeglasses. There are also other things that are too new to talk about, and I tend to be a little superstitious about that.
A: Do you have a favorite joke, motto, aphorism or anagram?
T: What was the question?
A: Never mind. Happy New Year. Looking forward to your pop-up book. And it will be interesting to see the series of paintings responsible for the beautiful overspray on your studio floor.