For her first solo institutional exhibition at the Renaissance Society
, Jennifer Packer presents new and recent paintings. Tenderheaded brings together multiple strands in the New York-based artists practice, ranging from portraiture to the funerary bouquet.
Based in observation, improvisation, and memory, Packers canvases are intimate and contemplative, rendered in loose strokes and strong color. Like the exhibition title, the juxtaposition of these various modes of representation and production point to possibilities both bodily and emotional, fragile and strong.
Packers figurative paintings feature a powerful quietude. Each canvas reads as a self-contained world, its subject emerging from or dissolving into its surroundings. She presents those who sit for herusually family members and friends with compassion, foregrounding their individual autonomy and carefully guarding their integrity. The artist is one of a number of emerging contemporary painters engaged with questions of representing the black subject; she considers her work to be part of a larger conversation about making these figures visible.
Funerary bouquets are the subject for another ongoing series of paintings that suggest themes of trauma and loss. Packers floral arrangements recall those of classical still life painters like Henri Fantin-Latour, yet, like her other works, they primarily produce a psychological space. Perhaps innocuous, even beautiful, on initial view, each suggests a private sorrow that reverberates beyond the fleeting moment of the flowers public display.
Packer renders fragments of her paintings in detail while she obscures information in other areas through more abstract mark-making or even leaving the surface blank. The artist paints each canvas over a long duration, returning again and again to rework the surface, undoing the image, as she says, until a balance is struck. A narrow palette in each workchartreuse, mauve, ochre, for exampledemands close attention to shifts in hue and tone and often results in subject and environment seeming to collapse into one another.
Packers practice is marked by its restraint, producing works that are complicated, sometimes elusive, but always generous. Suspicious of realisms capacity to communicate, she recently said, The more I approach realism, the further I feel from the true emotive quality of the things Im depicting. I think emotional information is often housed in the images resistance to a fixed identity
I believe that through engaging with [this] resistance there is a pushing toward something truer, more complex, and long-lasting.
Tenderheaded is accompanied by a program of events featuring CM Burroughs, Christina Sharpe, Cauleen Smith, and others. A monographthe artists firstwill be published in early 2018 including contributions by Kerry James Marshall, Jessica Bell Brown, April Freely, and Safiya Sinclair.
Curated by Solveig Øvstebø.
Jennifer Packer (1984) was born in Philadelphia, and received her BFA from the Tyler University School of Art in 2007, and her MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 2012. Packer was the recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Grant in 2013. In 2012-2013 she was an Artist-in-Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and from 2014-2016 was a Visual Arts Fellow at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Packer lives and works in New York.