A search for patterns in the light - and dark - Page 2

SECA: Trevor Paglen, Tauba Auerbach, and Jordan Kantor

I saw the windows bow in and out, and I remember driving home over the hill and seeing smoke and thinking our house was gone."

The memory bubbles up — as vivid and close to the surface as Auerbach's perusal of chance and broken glass, Shatter II (2008), in the SECA exhibition — while she talks about her latest project: a piece for the Exploratorium's "Geometry Playground," which opens in September. The title sounds like a perfect fit: a brain-teasing sense of play underlies many of Auerbach's projects, including the design of new mathematical symbols for Cambridge University logician Byron Cook's research into computer science's famed termination, or halting, problem. "I think there are shortcomings in any coding system," she muses. "Binary is so interesting because the components are so limited.... Every time you want ambiguity in a binary system, you have to simulate it."

Auerbach's darting intelligence peels off in many directions, much like her eye-boggling patterns. The artist's old day job, in which she learned the lost art of sign painting at New Bohemia Signs in the Mission District, dovetails with her witty, abstracted deconstructions — or explosions — of writing and semaphore systems, assorted alphabets, Morse code, and eye charts. Two such 2006 works, The Whole Alphabet, From the Center Out, Digital V and ...VI, which layer letters drawn from a digital clock, are on display at SFMOMA.

Penetrating glances into chaos and change yielded Auerbach's largest pieces — the 2008 Crumple paintings — in which she crumpled paper, photographed the results, and then translated the creases onto canvas with halftone printing and paint carefully applied by hand. The folds materialize as one steps further back — and break down into dizzying pixels close up. Multiple entry points exist down this rabbit hole, first carved out by Op artist Bridget Riley. But as with Auerbach's 2008 Static chromogenic prints, which saw her looking for randomness in analog TV static, the hidden spectrums and other visual tricks are rendered with an elegance a scientist would appreciate. (Kimberly Chun)


In Jordan Kantor's paintings, meaning is candid. When the word "candid" entered the English language in the 17th century, it was closer to its Latin roots, meaning "bright," "light," "radiant," "glow," or "white," with whiteness symbolizing purity and sincerity. Later, as the word approached then copulated with the critical language of photography — that crazy new field of "light writing" initially accused of everything from demonic possession to being a potential assassin of traditional visual arts like painting — "candid" gave birth to its common usage today, meaning "frank," "blunt," "severe," a harsh snapshot, brutally honest vision. So severity in art became intertwined with truth.

Kantor's local gallery, Ratio 3, with its emphasis on projects' overall coherence, is a welcome home to his current trajectory. His pieces for the SECA Art Award exhibition are alive with many truths at once, their spaces equally negative and positive. The three Untitled (lens flare) paintings and Untitled (HD lens flare), all from 2008, make you step back, only to feel as if your are standing closer than before. Untitled (Surgery) (2006–07) and Untitled (Eclipse) (2008) glow with negative light.

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