This July, Tauba Auerbach (b. 1981 in Berkeley, California) will ‘dazzle’ the historic Fireboat John J. Harvey in the New York Harbor. Flow Separation draws inspiration from the vibrant dazzle designs painted on ships crossing the Atlantic during World War I. The designs, developed by British painter Norman Wilkinson, were characterized by sharp interlocking shapes and colors that would distort the ships, confusing submarines tracking their course.
Taking cues both from animal camouflage and avant-garde movements such as Cubism, Futurism, and Vorticism, the geometric forms inspired generations of abstract artists that followed. For her contemporary design, Auerbach will paint the exterior of the fireboat with a design that builds on her experimentation with fluid dynamics.
As a former sign painter, Auerbach also has an enduring interest in older painting traditions and technologies, trying to use them in new ways. Throughout the summer and fall, the ‘dazzled’ fireboat will be anchored at various docks around the harbor and will offer free timed trips for the public, continuing John J. Harvey’s 18-year tradition. Flow Separation is Auerbach’s first U.S. public art commission and the first time Public Art Fund has partnered with a boat to realize a new exhibition.