Critics’ Picks

Jessica Vaughn, South Beach Blue No. 389, 2017, fabric scraps on Plexiglas, 57 x 39 x 1/2".

New York

Jessica Vaughn

Martos Gallery | New York
41 Elizabeth Street
October 26 - December 10

Earlier this fall, Omer Fast drew the ire of Chinatown antigentrification activists for his installation at James Cohan’s downtown space, which mimicked a stereotypical neighborhood discount storefront. Jessica Vaughn’s current exhibition, “Receipt of a Form,” confronts similar issues of urban movement and displacement, but she wields her materials with a lighter hand. Vaughn’s modus operandi is simple: She relocates the everyday elements of city life, such as worn-out public-transportation seats and their upholstery scraps, into the gallery. Yet her sculptural works mostly function as frames for empty space, communicating the ghostly absence of the bodies they are intended to support.

In Learning From the Work of Others (all works cited, 2017), the only flat, wall-hung work in the show, seven digital prints of carbon paper surround a photocopied diagram from a public-transit upholstery manufacturer. Labeled “Efficiency 73.95%,” the diagram depicts the pattern that workers must use to cut out as many elements—seat arms, backs—from a single piece of fabric as is possible. (Vaughn has added her own cryptic notes to the photocopy, likely referring to the gallery installation.) Along the floor, Vaughn has laid sculptures she created from upholstery scraps backed with Plexiglas; she titles them after the cloth’s fabrics or colors, such as the vibrantly patterned South Beach Blue No. 389 or Boomer Blue No. 340 #2. Seven sets of retired El seats, from the Chicago Transit Authority, are pinned to two walls in After Willis (rubbed, used and moved) #008. On one wall, there is a perfect set of four; on another, only three, with a noticeable gap—a symbol, perhaps, of the city’s segregation, of personal loss, or just of the inefficiency of public infrastructure.