Mail art fans visiting next month’s Frieze New York (17-21 May) at The Shed are in for a treat: the fair will feature a special commission by New York-based conceptual artist Jessica Vaughn based on her three-year exploration of the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Vaughn is the winner of the inaugural Frieze Artadia Prize, which recognises the work of a New York-based artist who has previously received an award from Artadia, a non-profit that gives grants to artists in cities across the US, from Boston to San Francisco. Winners of the new prize will receive support to create a new commission to be shown during Frieze New York.
Vaughn’s commission will consist of images from her three-year mail art project, The Internet of Things (2020-23). For the project, the artist mailed letters to sites throughout the US affiliated with commerce, violence or leisure, from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to offices in Silicon Valley and the gated community in Florida where teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012. Vaughn deliberately mislabeled each envelope so that it would eventually be returned to her, baring the various marks, stamps and notes of the USPS.
“I was interested in all of these sites, which when considered together, constitute a conceptual landscape that reorients how American life is pictured, felt and structured,” Vaughn says in a statement. She adds that, by printing images of the envelopes’ exteriors and interiors onto canvas and linen, she sees the project as a “revisioning of the traditions of landscape painting”.
Vaughn’s proposal was selected by the prize’s jurors, SculptureCenter director Sohrab Mohebbi and Pérez Art Museum Miami director Franklin Sirmans.
“We are excited to highlight Jessica Vaughn and her incisive interrogation of the institutional politics of labour—in this case, the United States Postal Service—which will culminate in this large-scale commission, which is such a fitting platform for the public to experience and reflect on,” Artadia’s executive director Carolyn Ramo says in a statement.
The display of Vaughn’s work at Frieze New York will coincide with the closing days of her first institutional solo exhibition in Europe, I 🖤 CUSTOMERS (until 21 May), at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Düsseldorf. That exhibition features new and recent works that, typical of the artist’s practice, focus viewers’ attentions on the often-overlooked processes and material traces of labour, from the information and service sectors to industrial manufacturing.
Such prizes have long been hallmarks of Frieze's various fairs. For instance, at Frieze Los Angeles in February, the Mexican American artist Narsiso Martinez won the $25,000 Frieze Impact Award and was given a solo stand at the fair. Last October, Abbas Zahedi won the Frieze Artist Award and presented a project on the grounds of Regent's Park during Frieze London.