To show within the walls of Slow—a small, artist-run space in Pilsen—is to work within the specific framework of the gallery. The white walls are adorned with unused outlets in peculiar arrangements. There is a wall that goes up about ten feet before abandoning its purpose of concrete division, letting light shine through the gap between its highest point and the ceiling. Most galleries deviate from the white cube format in mild ways, as no space is created equal. Artists can then choose either to ignore the idiosyncrasies of the architecture which hold their work or acknowledge this feat in small ways. It is more popular to just mount and run, as the responsibility of the artist is arguably only extended to the work itself. Yet, Roni Packer’s P.S. My Favorite Color is Green not only collaborates with the space, but utilizes the format of the alternative gallery to further complicate the artist’s practice.
Packer’s paintings thus far have been defined by yellow. Not just any yellow, but a yellow which feels like it could eat you up and spit you out as another yellow thing. It is a yellow which both excites and terrifies and is reminiscent of piss or warmth, or maybe something else entirely. The pigment used in this series is auto body paint, poured onto un-stretched canvas, spread with pallet knives and brushes before being cut up, and finally collaged. The interaction between the paint and the canvas often produces a distortion between the two, a sort of rippling effect like a frozen sea.
It is easy to get hung up on the color; it has the power to turn a person away from the object and towards a subjective nostalgia for whatever may be evoked by its presence rather than its usage. All of the work displayed is readable as a metaphor to something else, an investigation of the monument of color which searches and destroys the political nature of the objects at hand. In the 2009 publication Bluets, poet Maggie Nelson puts it this way, “but what goes on in you when you talk about color as if it were a cure, when you have not yet stated your disease?” The color is only partial to the usage, and the application still devours the canvases’ layered meanings.
When speaking of P.S. My Favorite Color is Green specifically, the color yellow takes on another life away from the previous work Packer has produced. After teaching a class in a local prison, the artist continued a correspondence with one of her detained students. Over the course of their conversation, she began to realize that many of the relationships she had with the color and citron, the recipient may never share with her as long as he was to be held incarcerated. In a final letter to the artist, he wrote, “P.S. my favorite color is green.” This endnote turned into inspiration for the largest piece featured in the gallery, which is draped over either side of the partial wall. One side is covered only with green, a square of dense paint within another lighter totalizing form, and some more playful brush strokes beneath. On the other side, a yellow collage using a technique which is carried across the rest of the pieces on view. It is a presence which admits defeat, while serves as a catalyst in a new understanding of Packer’s process, and demonstrates the failures of communication between aesthetic and meaning.
Next to each piece, the name of the work is written ever-so-lightly in pencil and is only legible when standing about a foot away from the wall. Some are comical, like Not Ice Cream on one wall, and Ice Cream (1.a) on the opposing wall. Some are dark, like the ominous diptych If only I had painted in the East, which appears to be like curtains with a slight opening between the two canvases, leading only to more wall. A vase of wilting yellow tulips sit on the windowsill, and I ask Paul Melvin Hopkin, the curator and director of Slow if they are part of the exhibition. He explains that while they are not exactly part of Packer’s exhibition, they were delivered by the artist’s partner on the day of the opening, and have been sitting there ever since. It is a nice homage to be greeted with flowers, something real and tactile amongst so much which is only interpretable.