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The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to present Jessica Vaughn: Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful, a major survey of new and recent work, on view February 26 through May 9, 2021. 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. Vaughn (b. 1983, Chicago, IL; lives Brooklyn, NY) transforms and repurposes employee training videos, career exploration tools, government occupational reports, and workplace lighting fixtures into photographs, sculptures, paintings, and video that urge us to reconsider the systems that shape the spaces where work is conducted.
The works on view are grounded in the political and social relations that make up workspaces particularly affirmative action, legislation that was implemented in the 1960s to integrate the government workforce; minimalism, an art movement that prioritized industrial materials; and the development of the office cubicle that would come to revolutionize how and where we work. These three seemingly disparate moments that have been historicized as distinct are in fact intertwined and, for Vaughn, of great critical focus. Presented here are the material legacies of these histories not only as they existed in the past, but as they persist today.
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