Bubbles combine the geometry of perfect spheres with the chaotic behaviors of floating, bursting, conjoining and pressing up against one another. In the dozen paintings, each titled “Foam” (all 2023), Tauba Auerbach finds a mass of bubbles a fitting subject for their coolly elegant art. The exhibition, titled “Free Will,” is this New York-based artist’s first hometown gallery show since the success of their 2022 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art survey exhibition. The paintings reproduce images of bubbled foam photographed through a microscope, here painted using accumulations of pointillist-like dots. When viewed up close, they resemble topographical maps marked by multicolored pins or even reptile skin.
Shown alongside the paintings on four low metal tables are six beaded glass sculptures, also all sharing a title, “Org” (2023 with one from 2022). In the front of the gallery, where light floods in from the street through frosted windows are seven semicircular arcs of kiln-fired glass mounted on vertical aluminum armatures, again all titled “Spontaneous Lace” (2023). These translucent half-moons feature colored powdered glass that after heating look delicately patterned, like melted lacework. The tabletop beaded sculptures suggest minimalist jewelry as well as instructional models of complex molecules. All of Auerbach’s works here seem to capture order at a moment before seizing into chaos, or vice versa. The works may seem at a glance almost coldly scientific, but is there anything more human than the struggle of barely maintaining order with grace?
– John Vincler