Melissa Blanchflower, Exhibitions Curator at Serpentine, leads us through Jennifer Packer’s solo exhibition, The Eye Is Not Satisified With Seeing.
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Combining observation, improvisation and memory, Packer’s intimate portraits of friends and family members and flower still paintings insist on the emotional and physical essence of the contemporary Black lives she depicts. While the casual repose of her portraits is the result of her care for the sitters, Packer acknowledges her choice to paint figures as political, stating: ‘Representation and particularly, observation from life, are ways of bearing witness and sharing testimony’.
Jennifer Packer’s paintings recalibrate art historical approaches to these enduring genres, casting them in a political and contemporary light, while rooted in a deeply personal context. On occasion, Packer describes her flower compositions as funerary bouquets and vessels of personal grief; these paintings about loss are often made in response to tragedies of state and institutional violence against Black Americans.
Featuring 34 works dated from 2011 to 2020, the exhibition presents portraits of artists from Packer’s New York circle, monochromatic paintings, intimate interiors and flower still lifes including Say Her Name (2017), painted in response to the suspicious death of Sandra Bland, a Black American woman who is largely believed to have been murdered while in police custody in 2015. The exhibition also includes drawings which for Packer are rarely just a study but hold a weight of their own that differs from paintings.