Text: Eduardo Andres Alfonso
Tauba Auerbach’s most recent show at Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, titled Projective Instrument, attracts a mixed following. Fine artists, graphic designers, architects, and other professionals in New York that orbit around the gallery scene are known to mix at openings and performances, but that feeling of crossing paths is more palpable at Auerbach’s show this Saturday when the artist invited electronic music/performance duo MSHR (pronounced mesher) to take over the space. The gallery scene regulars mingled around the edges while devotees to alternative music formed a tight-seated ring around the stage made of quilts and blankets.
Tauba Auerbach’s art already lends itself to being cross-disciplinary. Unpacking the pieces and the craft involved in making them is helped a lot by visiting with the mixed crowd. An architect may be able to decipher the geometries and digital processes Auerbach manipulates to create the mesmerizing array of 3D printed objects comprising the work Altar/Engine, while someone more experienced in painting would be able to decode that the “custom-made instruments,” used to make the paintings (such as Grain: Sierpiński Ghost I) are probably evolved from the tools used to paint faux wood grain. This isn’t to say that the work needs explanation: the differences in scale, the subtle gradients of color used and the technical exactitude of everything present in the room is captivating on its own, but the fact that people with expertise in different fields can stand, look and discuss the work for so long is a sort of testament to the research and knowledge invested in the paintings and sculptures.
The row of identical bent glass tubes on a gold-pink gradated table may at first come off as exactingly made to order, but that is not the case. A Flexible Fabric of Inflexible Parts and a trio of sculptures (Knife I, Knife II andLevel) presented on high gloss tables–which are so alluring in color and finish that they require extra awareness from the gallery staff to keep people from touching–are a result of Auerbach’s residency at Urban Glass. A quick look at the artist’s instagram (@lil_tau_au) reveals that the making of those was in fact a learning process undertaken by the artist who got a full course in bending and casting glass as part of her residency. The effort in learning and investigating in not just evident in the fabrication, but also in the selection of books that Auerbach has left for visitors to the gallery to look over. After a walk-through you might find yourself engrossed in a crash course of Fibonacci sequences, nested spiral algorithms, the art of Japanese joinery and American architect Claude Brangdon while seated in the impromptu reading room.
The performance by MSHR, the duo comprised of Brenna Murphy and Birch Cooper who came from Portland on Auerbach’s invitation, filled the space with a different kind of format that still shared many of the same fascinations that are pervasive in Auerbach’s work. The noise that they produced on their stage, which is actually a massively complex kind of synthesizer, was wild. At times it seemed to be running away from them, escalating into a faster tempo before the turn of several knobs and dials reeled it back in. The noise was all produced through a kind of shamanistic choreography that involved a set of objects laced with different kinds of sensors for light, motion and touch. Murphy performed something of a fan dance with two large plexiglass objects that looked like coral, while Cooper waved an equilateral chrome cross back and forth in front of a conch shell. The disconnect between the objects and the sounds produced was fascinating. The intensity of the lights created a kind of oceanic experience. When the performance ended attendees where invited to try out the apparatus. Kids playing pat-a-cake to their own soundtrack of avant-garde electronic music was beautiful, and the mood of sharing and participation was brought into the stuffy atmosphere of the white gallery without seeming cliché.
Auerbach and MSHR’s art both echo each other in that technology, advanced mathematics and precise craft are hallucinatory, while being absolutely real and sober. The show and the performance are certainly a case where technology is taken in a direction where it becomes indistinguishable from magic.
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an array of several dozen parts ranging from 18 x 18 x 10 in (45.7 x 45.7 x 25.4 cm) to 1 x 1 x 2 in (2.5 x 2.5 x 5.1 cm) Table: 15 x 108 x 108 in (38.1 x 274.3 x 274.3 cm) © Tauba Auerbach. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York Photography Steven Probert