David Castillo presents CURRENT YEAR, a solo exhibition of Jillian Mayer’s latest body of sculptural glass works.
CURRENT YEAR meditates on the state of the present as a landscape that is created, transmitted, and understood through lenses and screens. Glass emerges as the predominant vernacular material from which these filters are made, serving as an invisible but no less present partition that both separates us from reality and mediates how it is seen. As a substance that facilitates forms of vision, glass often bears complex cultural meanings linked to concepts of clarity and truth, and can give credence—whether merited or not—to information envisioned through its medium; these associations can be instrumentalized to further blur the divide between fact and fabrication, one of the defining issues of the current moment. In this exhibition, Mayer presents glass across a diversity of sculptural contexts—as irregularly-shaped, multi-colored panes suspended from the gallery’s ceiling, the walls, and from metal and fiberglass objects—to address its intrinsic vulnerabilities and contradictions, its ubiquity and evolution as a tool of communication, and as an aspirational substance of futurity.
The technology of glassmaking was harnessed during antiquity thousands of years ago, and from that time onwards the material has been continuously reformulated and reimagined across evolving applications: from glass beads and vessels to windows and mirrors, to stained glass, vision-correcting eyewear, tele- and microscopes, the light bulb, the camera, the television, fiberoptic cables that connect the global internet, and to the screens of smart devices carried daily by half the world’s population. The history of glass is intimately tied to the history of human civilization and, more pointedly, to that of the accelerated technological progress of the 20th and 21st centuries. This is the context in which Mayer’s interest in glass as both a material and conceptual framework is situated. And through her works, the artist frames the centrality of glass in terms of its pervasiveness and the ways in which its uses have contributed to the rapid technologization of lived experience, transforming our social, economic, and political infrastructures and the ways in which we see ourselves and others.
The impact of the digital landscape on human relations and the human body are concepts that Mayer unravels in her practice through arch, tongue-in-cheek works that point towards the increasing co-dependence and potential cybernetic symbiosis between humans and machines. Her Slumpies series (2016 to present) is an example of an imagined and utilitarian furniture of the future designed to ergonomically support the various postures of the body while in use of a smartphone. Made from fiberglass cast into irregular, quasi-organic shapes, the handmade aesthetics of Mayer’s Slumpies function in contrast to the highly refined and machine-manufactured finish of the technologies they are meant to complement. The works in CURRENT YEAR emerge as a natural progression from this series. Mayer fashions smooth panes of glass that—in their production process—bubble and take on irregular forms, comprised of multi-colored layers of glass and paint of diverse finishes and shapes. These hand-made works become windows into the world—lenses, screens, filters—of various opacities and embedded with materials that inexorably alter and color what is seen through the glass. The pieces each function as visual metaphors and illustrate the myriad shifting contexts altering the view through the seemingly invisible filters that mediate how the world is portrayed and understood.
To communicate information of any kind is to pass it through a filter that will imbue it with subjectivities that are never neutral nor in balance. And Mayer expands on these grounds through the overlapped and disorderly aesthetics of her glass works, approaching the present as a similarly turbulent, splintered, and capricious landscape that is difficult to navigate and impossible to fully define. Some of her pieces are embedded with words—Burdens, Collusion, Hiatus, Pleasure, Politics, and others—that speak to the issues and urgencies that govern the current moment. Other works are made to look like rudimentary faces, alluding to the ways in which filters mask not only how we view society but how we fashion and represent ourselves on social media. And through these abstractions, Mayer shines a light on the filters through which we see the current year, and she asks her viewer to question what is seen, learned, and understood when the world is envisioned through the glass of a screen.