Hiding in Plain Sight

Jessica Vaughn

b. 1983, Chicago, Illinois
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

First Floor

Installed throughout the first-floor gallery, Jessica Vaughn’s Hope Labor, Flat and Folded (2021) features geometric forms that both recall and reject the language of Minimalism. The flat floor sculptures replicate a set of visual tools taken from the training manuals of the Occupational Information Network, the world’s largest resource for vocational training. The original letter-sized sheets of construction paper—scored, cut, and primed to be folded into three-dimensional shapes—are reproduced in this large-scale, mint-green powdered-coated sculpture comprising aluminum panels. The shapes are designed to predict a worker’s ability to maximize productivity and can help train dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and spatial recognition. Positioned on the floor of the gallery, these shapes are no longer usable as training tools and instead become relics of standardized tests and profit-driven pushes for increased production. Addressing capitalism’s impact on the lives of workers, Vaughn’s work examines the complexities of labor systems and the bureaucracies that govern them.

Jessica Vaughn, Hope Labor, Flat and Folded, 2021, painted aluminum, 19" × 45" × 26" (48.3 cm × 114.3 cm × 66 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Martos Gallery
Jessica Vaughn, Hope Labor, Flat and Folded, 2021, painted aluminum, 21" × 65" × 36" (53.3 cm × 165.1 cm × 91.4 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Martos Gallery
Jessica Vaughn, Hope Labor, Flat and Folded, 2021, painted aluminum, 1/8" × 73-1/2" × 27-1/2" (0.3 cm × 186.7 cm × 69.9 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Martos Gallery
Jessica Vaughn, Hope Labor, Flat and Folded, 2021, painted aluminum, 1/4" × 77" × 33-1/2" (0.6 cm × 195.6 cm × 85.1 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Martos Gallery
Second Floor

For After Willis (rubbed, used and moved) #005 (2017), the artist created an orderly grid of decommissioned pieces of equipment and scrap industrial materials. On view in the piece are mass-produced, machine-fabricated public transit seats from Chicago Transit Authority buses, which reflect Vaughn’s interest in the functionality of infrastructure. Meditating on the history of segregation in America, the work’s title refers to Benjamin C. Willis, the superintendent of the Chicago public school system in the 1960s. Willis crowded predominantly Black schools instead of adjusting district lines to desegregate the institutions and appropriate resources to better meet the needs of each neighborhood. The nine individual pairs of used fiberglass and upholstered public transit seats examines the ways that systems of power can become tied to everyday objects.

Jessica Vaughn, After Willis (rubbed, used and moved) #006, ('2017, 7 individual pairs of used machine fabricated public transit train seats, (Chicago Transit Authority 1998 - 2011), 24" × 180" (61 cm × 457.2 cm), approximate, Collection of Jose Martos and Servane Mary, New York',)
Jessica Vaughn

Jessica Vaughn (b. 1983, Chicago, Illinois) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BA of Humanities and Arts from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh in 2006 and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. Important exhibitions of her work include Our Primary Goal Is To Be Successful, ICA Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA (2021); Lost in America, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, DE (2020); FEELINGS, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, DE (2019); Omnipresence, The Kitchen, New York, NY (2018); Exit Strategy, Emalin Gallery, London, UK (2018) and Receipt of a Form at Martos Gallery, New York (2017). Vaughn’s work resides in public collections, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, Whitney Museum, and Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany.