Press Release

The exhibition is on view June 13 - July 26, 2024

USM Soho | 28-30 Greene St, New York, NY 10013

Monday - Friday 10 - 6

Saturday 12 - 6


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Opening reception: Thursday June 13th, 6 - 8 pm


Refreshments kindly provided byTwo Robbers Sprits co.@two_robbers


The reception will feature a live set by the one and only Natalie Soler




This exhibition is curated by Grace Nkem


Jillian Mayer x Jason Jacques Gallery, c/o USM Modular Furniture


Office Culture: Bodies of Work / Bodies of Thought poses a question about the cultural significance of, as it were, offices— it is an attempt at better understanding their place within our cultural imaginary as a potential setting of contemporary psychodrama, the sites of many of our triumphs and tribulations, wants and desires, successes and failures.

If we take workspaces, whether open-plan or cubicle-based, to be the 'public' iteration of the office, then we may take the the psychiatrists' offices as the private one— a space arranged not around productivity, but rigorous introspection and vulnerability. In as much, Office Culture is a surreal attempt to merge the two extremes that confronts us with the gap between the 'personal' and the 'professional.'

The question at hand is as follows: how do our thoughts shape interior spaces and built environments— and how do they, in turn, shape our thoughts?

Aside from the Oval Office, the best-known office in Western history is likely Freud’s: a highly functional, comfortable, and historically significant little room lined with carpets that draped over the couch and up the wall. It was filled with with sculptures, photographs, and prints, lined with bookshelves and draped with heavy curtains; to this day, it remains a culturally formative, highly compelling space. What's crucial to note is that it is human presence, ultimately, that imbues interiors such as these with aura and sentimentality.

Ceramics function similarly: though, at the start of their history they were typically rather plain and functional objects, by the Neolithic period human hands had transformed clay into ritual vessels and touching depictions of the human form— into objects imbued with meaning.

The work on view here, furniture, functional wares, mixed media works, antique rugs, and sculptures alike, are fine examples of this. Mayer's functional ceramics in particular, which dispense tape and store office supplies with a sense of whimsy, are as much tools as they are sculptures, dreamy combinations of work for work's sake and art for art's sake. Her furniture, meanwhile, eschews the idea of work and evokes the image of a body at rest.

Mayer's conceptually rigorous and physically robust practice in sculpture, video, and performance primarily explores how our interactions with the digital world affects our lives, bodies, and identities by shifting and shaping our perceptions and compulsions— yet, hers is a practice that scales from the most complex to the most simple of technologies. In Office Culture, she addresses the reality of the material works, "modeling," in her own words, "how to subvert capital-driven modes of technological innovation." 

The oldest clay pieces shown here are post-war German works by members of the London Group, most notably Beate Kuhn (whose solo retrospective, "Turn," goes on view at the Carnegie Pittsburgh June 29th). The most recent are works by contemporary sculptors, Aneta Regel, Gareth Mason, Nick Weddell, Anne Marie Laureys, Morten Løbner Espersen, Kim Simonsson, Chase Travaille, and the aforementioned Jillian Mayer. And while the contemporary works embody a twenty-first century sense of buoyant exuberance, the older pieces on view convey the sort of restraint we’ve come to see as characteristic of much Cold War-era design.

USM's Desk, with Mayer’s seating placed before it, carry the scene— both are slightly surreal yet highly legible objects whose plain functions act as a refrain: they say, “Be present, have a look, and take a seat.”

That is the leitmotif. All objects herein invariably relate to the human body and call for a human presence. The desk is a display to peer into and, at once, a workspace at which to sit down to write. The shelves ask you to peek though, to walk around, and to look. At once, along the wall hang Mayer's glass works, bright and fantastic faces that return the viewer’s gaze as they hover quixotically amidst her unconventional mixed media works like thoughts in progress. Below them stand examples of primarily twenty-first century ceramic sculpture, works that exemplify the ways in which a ‘functional’ medium may be transformed into pure expression. Formally speaking, like the desk and shelves and seating the pots also relate to the body: after all, ceramic vessels typically have ‘lips,’ ‘feet,’ shoulders’ and ‘necks.’

Sculpture and modular furniture each demonstrate that repetition and refinement of a gesture may yield something beautiful. The confluence of hyper-functionality and sculptural, imaginative whimsy within Office Culture: Bodies of Work / Bodies of Thought points back again to the main line of inquiry: how do our thoughts shape interior spaces and built environments— and how do they, in turn, shape our thoughts?

So, we shimmy away from 'the real' and get a footing on 'the possible,' and in leaving reality behind embrace the unexpected.


Exhibition text courtesy of curator.

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