From the collection: celebrating the work of Tauba Auerbach

24 March 2021

Subject Library Assistant Laura Wood delves into the University library’s Special Collections to celebrate the work of visual artist Tauba Auerbach. 

This time last year, the library displayed a number of artist books and other printed materials from the acclaimed visual artist Tauba Auerbach in our Librarian’s Choice exhibition.

The twelve months that have passed since then have certainly been strange, but the impact of Auerbach’s book works has not been lessened by the interceding pandemic, and we want to celebrate and highlight the wonderful resource that is our Tauba Auerbach Collection.

The library is very proud to have acquired a number of the artist’s most enchanted printed works, and this is currently the only collection of their artist books in the UK.

Auerbach does work across multiple media and artistic disciplines, from painting and photography to jewellery and sculpture. They have a diverse output of creative work, but it is to the book form that they are particularly dedicated, even founding Diagonal Press in 2013 - a publishing project run via their own studio.

Tauba Auerbach/Diagonal Press, '[2,3]' 2011 Paper, ink, binder's board, glue, fabric, silk screen Closed: 20.75 x 16.5 x 4.5 inches 52.71 x 41.91 x 11.43 cm. Open: Dimensions variable. Photo: Chelsea Deklotz.

The Diagonal Press website intimates Auerbach’s intention to make art in the form of publications which will “exploit the physical possibilities of accessible, consumer-level printing and binding processes such as comb binding, coil binding, photocopying and rubber stamping.” These methods and materials come together to form inventive and elegant artist books which explore the relationships between two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms.

A great example of this is [2,3], an oversized pop-up book Auerbach worked on for a number of years before publishing in 2011. They have said that the “pleasure” of this piece was “making it work”. Each of the six ‘pages’ opens to reveal a geometrically intricate die-cut paper sculpture. Open and stationary, these sculptures are impressive, but the real character of this piece comes from interacting with it as a book; the moment of flux as you open each page, when folded paper metamorphosizes from 2- to 3-D. It is a real feat of paper engineering.

Tauba Auerbach/Diagonal Press, '[2,3]' 2011 Paper, ink, binder's board, glue, fabric, silk screen Closed: 20.75 x 16.5 x 4.5 inches 52.71 x 41.91 x 11.43 cm. Open: Dimensions variable. Photo: Chelsea Deklotz.

Saccade 1, 2, and 3 also realise visual experiences that are typically unavailable in normal dimensional space and time. ‘Saccades’ describe one of three types of eye movement; they are the rapid movements of both eyes in the same direction, jumping from target to target in the visual field, or moving incrementally such as when one reads or watches a passing train. The Saccade books seek to visualise this experience, and each contains a pair of discreet but thematically related images joined by a video transition - each frame of the transition is output to a page.

Auerbach’s works are often very modern, with a focus on the mathematical, technological and scientific, but another of my favourite pieces is The Ampersand is Your Friend. It’s an example of an early artist book project from Auerbach - their three-issue “periodical”, Twentysix, which ran from 2003-4. They were working as a sign-painter at the time and they named the work for the number of letters in the alphabet. Ampersand is a small book, binding handsewn by the artist, and with a stylistically drawn ampersand on each page. She’s done a lot of work with type and the alphabet [See: How to Spell the Alphabet], but there’s something so simply effective about this piece!

These are just a couple of my favourite items from the library’s collection of Auerbach’s works - but it was hard to pick! They have created some truly unique artist books, from Ampersand to ZS Helix, and you can find all of these on the library catalogue.

Artists’ books are so endearing to me, as much of their wonder comes from interacting with them as books; turning pages and engaging with the work. This is something Auerbach does well with her use of binding and printing methods; their works are art-objects that do not feel so distinct from the common book we are all familiar with.

Interacting with these books whilst adding them to the library has been a joy, and I would encourage any of our current students or staff to come and make the most of this exciting collection!

The Tauba Auerbach Collection is made up of 22 of the artist’s books and other printed works. This is a sub-collection of the library’s wider Special Collection of Artists’ Books, Illustrative Books and Photobooks. For information on accessing items from the Special Collection, head to eStudio or email the library team at

If you’re wanting more on Tauba Auerbach and some of their artist book projects, check out Artists Who Make Books (2018) by Roth, Aarons and Lehmann. This contains a substantial interview with the artist, discussing their considerable work with the book form. Available from the Blenheim Walk library, 700.16 ROT.