THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The Serpentine Gallery, picturesquely situated in London’s Kensington Gardens, reopens May 19 with an exhibition by a significant American artist.
Jennifer Packer is a traditionalist in some respects. The New Yorker (Philadelphia-born in 1984) is a figurative and expressionist painter who creates portraits, interior scenes and still lifes. But her paintings are far from traditional in their genesis and intention. “My inclination to paint, especially from life,” she says, “is a completely political one. 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.” She certainly achieves that. She adds, “Representation, and particularly observation from life, are ways of bearing witness and sharing testimony.”
With great classical draftsmanship and painterly skills she bring a politically charge to her works, which center on contemporary black lives. This survey exhibition - the first for Packer in a European gallery – opened in December 2020 but had to close again due to lockdown restrictions. It includes 34 artworks, paintings and drawings from the past decade alongside new work created in her Bronx studio over the last year. Intimate portraits sit alongside still lifes of bouquets of flowers which represent the transience of life in the tradition of 16th century Dutch paintings. One of these was painted in response to the 2015 death in police custody of Sandra Bland.
An Assistant Professor at Rhode Island School of Design, Packer was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome, 2020-2021. If you are heading Stateside, she has a forthcoming solo exhibition at MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (dates to be confirmed) and will be taking part in Prospect New Orleans, a citywide contemporary art triennial, from October this year.
The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing ends at the Serpentine Gallery August 22, and travels to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in Fall 2021.