Jennifer Packer at Serpentine Galleries
Advisory Perspective

Jennifer Packer
at Serpentine Galleries

By Ocula Advisory | London, 1 December 2020

In Jennifer Packer's paintings, her sitters—often members of the artist's family and friends—are rendered with brilliant hues in intimate settings.

Painted either from memory, observation, or improvisation, there is a tenderness in each portrayal. Layered in loose strokes, these expressive paintings sit between the figurative and abstraction, with portions left blank or seemingly fragmented, while other parts are made up of exquisite detail.

'It's not figures, not bodies, but humans I am painting', notes the artist. Packer seeks to recalibrate the history of representation in art, and her approach to fragmentation is thus tactical, as she takes care to depict Black lives, 'without damaging the individual or putting them in harm's way'.

Jennifer Packer, Jess (2018). Oil on canvas. 76.2 x 61 cm. Collection of Ursula Burns. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Jennifer Packer, Jess (2018). Oil on canvas. 76.2 x 61 cm. Collection of Ursula Burns. Photo: Jason Wyche.

At Serpentine Galleries in London, the personal as political is foregrounded in Packer's work.

'My inclination to paint bodies, especially from life, is a completely political one', the artist has said. 'We belong here. We deserve to be seen and acknowledged in real time. We deserve to be heard and to be imaged with shameless generosity and accuracy.'

The exhibition, which opens on 5 December, presents 35 drawings from 2011 and 2020, following on from her 2017 museum show at the Renaissance Society in Chicago. Along with portraits, also included are the artist's flower paintings, which she began in 2012.

Painted from observation, the bouquets originated as a grounding exercise in the studio, but eventually provided the artist with the means to process the grief of institutional violence against Black Americans.

Awarded the 2020 Hermitage Greenfield Prize, the artist—who received her BFA from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, Philadelphia, in 2007 and MFA from Yale University School of Art in 2012—has achieved increasing recognition in the past five years.

Based in New York, Packer is currently Assistant Professor in the painting department of Rhode Island School of Design.—[O]

Main image: Jennifer Packer, Tia (2017) (detail). Oil on canvas. 63.5 x 99 cm. Collection of Joel Wachs. Photo: Matt Grubb.

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