In a tribute to her talents, MoMA gave artist Tauba Auerbach a full room in its current exhibition, Ecstastic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, which celebrates twelve artists (including composer John Cage, musician John Lennon, and poet William S. Burroughs) fascinated by the material qualities of language. The show combines all things visual and verbal for an interesting mix of poetry, painting, and performance. It’s a compelling reminder that words, while referential, draw meaning from their own visual power.
In the sweltering New York summer, the space does not boast much room for the crowds appreciating the air-conditioning as much as the art. Organized around a narrow hallway, however, the show is a worthwhile squeeze. Many of these artists aren’t often in museums. And in this cramped exhibition, Auerbach shines.
Auerbach’s star is rising, having recently concluded a solo exhibition at the Paula Cooper Gallery. She offers MoMA a set of geometrical dissections of alphabets from Latin and Morse code, along with typewritten plays on punctuation and other works. While some of her work can feel monotonous, the artist has a surprising knack for variety—like the performance art she made using a tandem pump organ (shown below). Included in six exhibitions in the past two months, it appears her youth (she is thirty-one) is generating a lot of productive energy. Much of Auerbach’s work is online here, or, if you’re in L.A., catch her at MoCA in its group exhibition The Painting Factory: Painting after Warhol before August 20.
Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language is on view at MoMA through August 27.