Feb 26, 2021, 6:30PM–8PM

Spring 2021 Online Exhibition Opening
In Conversation: Jessica Vaughn & Nikil Saval, Moderated by Meg Onli

Jessica Vaughn, photo by Yael Malka. Nikil Saval, photo by: David Maialetti.

Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful is a major survey of new and recent work by visual artist Jessica Vaughn. Within this exhibition Vaughn considers the intersections between late twentieth- and twenty-first-century work culture, modular architecture—its promise of malleability and universality—and the marginalized workers who have been rendered invisible within these workspaces. Join us for a conversation between the artist, Meg Onli – Andrea B. Laporte Associate Curator, and Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval, whose book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace was a critical piece of text used by Vaughn as she formulated the concepts for the exhibition. Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful will be on view February 26 through May 9, 2021.

This program is free and open to the public. It will be conducted virtually via Zoom. To register, click here.

Live captioning will be provided for this program by Caption Access. Please contact Natalie Sandstrom, Program Coordinator, at nsand@ica.upenn.edu with any questions.


Jessica Vaughn’s practice is directed by relationships and experiences in and outside of the studio, and considers how materials accumulate and inhabit spaces. With a studio process that is rooted in research, Vaughn’s multidisciplinary approach encompasses working with discarded and mass-produced materials to create artworks and installations that convey complex histories of place, production, and use. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania (2011) and a Bachelor of Humanities & Arts from Carnegie Mellon University (2006). Her work has been exhibited at MOMA PS1, Studio Museum in Harlem, Project Row Houses, and in galleries in the United States and abroad.

Nikil Saval is a father, writer, and community organizer. He is the first Asian American to be elected to the Philadelphia State Senate. His work in the community is deeply rooted in the labor movement. Saval co-founded Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive organization working for racial, gender, and economic justice throughout the Philadelphia area. In 2014, he published his book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. The book examines the long-term evolution of the office concept from its roots in nineteenth-century counting houses all the way to the cubicle, ultimately presenting a world in which workplaces, and the lives of the workers within them, could be improved in the future.


Support for Jessica Vaughn: Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful has been provided by the Inchworm Fund. The Inchworm Fund is an endowment created to respond to ICA’s spirit of exploration, supporting artists and curators in their quest to uncover the unknown through multiyear research, exhibition, publication, and conversation. In naming the fund, visionary Philadelphia patron Daniel W. Dietrich, II wished to attract fellow contributors, encouraging ICA to reach and expand toward new possibilities.

This project is supported in part by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Martos Gallery, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Danielle Mandelbaum Anderman, Dorothy & Martin Bandier, Julie & Lawrence Bernstein, Cheri & Steven Friedman, Kirk Kirkpatrick, Josephine Magliocco, Patricia & Howard Silverstein, and Meredith & Bryan Verona.