New American Paintings/Blog


Jen Pack’s UnQuiet Chromo at Taylor De Cordoba by New American Paintings
November 6, 2012, 7:41 am
Filed under: Los Angeles, Review | Tags: , , ,

Jen Pack’s (NAP #73) UnQuiet Chromo at Taylor De Cordoba is something of an artistic oxymoron—in the best way possible.  Her works are both loud and quiet.  Soft and hard.  Strong and delicate. Opaque and solid.  Something about her stretched chiffon patchwork defies many of the qualities that the pieces also envelop and embody.


Jen Pack | I Am A Cube!, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 58.5″ x 58.5″ x 3.5″ Photo courtesy of Taylor De Cordoba.

Pack sews together narrow strips of chiffon, using contrasting colored threads.  She then pieces these slender and uneven strips together again and again and again, creating a quilted surface that she can stretch over dense and deep wooden frames.  Her works are three-dimensional in many ways and forms. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor


Jen Pack | Escaping Grey, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 60″ x 34″ x 3 1/2″ Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Jen Pack | Escaping Grey, Detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

The wooden frames are imposing – they step out into the viewer’s field with their 3.5” deep figures, much more so than a 1-2” depth of a standard canvas.  Pack creates a three dimensional surface area of patchworked chiffon that is actually sewn and fitted over the frame, much more so like a tent or barbeque cover than a traditional stretched canvas that starts with just one flat piece of fabric.  Pack literally cuts, shapes, and sews the fabric so that it fits specifically around the precise dimensions of the frame.


Jen Pack | You Make Me Glow, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 59″ x 36″ x 3.5″ Photo courtesy of Taylor De Cordoba.

Jen Pack | You Make Me Glow, Detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Jen Pack | You Make Me Glow, Detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

The shapes are unusual and non-traditional as well.  They are rounded or angular, or both rounded and angular (another wonderful contradiction).  Often multiple pieces make up one work.  They are singular and modular.  And thanks to the thicker size of Pack’s wooden stretchers, the sides of the pieces become a work of their own, and these soft curvatures or hard-angled edges lend to a more sculptural feel as well.


Jen Pack | Domesticated Thread, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 59.5″ x 35.5″ x 3.5″ Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Rich, deep colors contrast with delicate, stretched chiffon and threads.  There is an impending nature to her work, because the colors are so rich and strong; but at the same time, there is a tenuous and delicate nature to her work as the fabric is stretched to its sheer capacity (quite literally) to the point that it seems it might snap or become threadbare.


Gallery View of I am a Cube! and Earnest Yellow. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

At first glimpse entering the gallery, viewers are met by Pack’s strong and loud geometric shapes.  But upon closer inspection, a large part of what I savor in Pack’s work lies in the details: the faint yellow and contrasting stitching that pieces together every minute strip and patch, the varied patchwork sizes, and the quilt-like aesthetic.


Jen Pack | Green Orange Crosshatch, 2010, chiffon, cotton, thread, wood, 92″ x 23″ x 3.5″ Photo courtesy of Taylor De Cordoba.

Jen Pack | Green Orange Crosshatch, Detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Besides this quilted feel, there is a painterly aesthetic too.  Green Orange Crosshatch, with its dotted and imprecise, rich, green and yellow hues has a pointillist feel.  Still, others such as An Unlikely Partnership or Scrappity Scrap invoke an abstracted feel of Ghanaian kente cloth, as I have discussed with the artist before.  (For more on Pack’s process and thoughts, see my previous interview with the artist: Fabrications with Jen Pack.)


Jen Pack | Earnest Yellow, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 60″ x 36″ x 3.5″ – Detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

Another crucial part of her work, and almost another medium in itself is light.  Special moments are created with the interplay of light and cast shadows throughout her work and show.  This happens with both synthetic gallery lighting and solar light that enters the gallery windows and casts playful shadows around and beneath the chiffon surface area.


Jen Pack | An Unlikely Partnership, 2012, chiffon, thread, wood, 29.5″ x 25.5″ x 3.5″ Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell.

UnQuiet Chroma is open through December 15th and is not to be missed.  I recommend viewing the gallery from multiple angles and perspectives, both up close and far away, in order to appreciate all of the opposites Pack’s work packs in.

Jen Pack lives and works in Durango, Colorado. She received her BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA in 1997 and her MLIS from San Jose State University in 2008. Reviews of her work have appeared in New American Paintings, ArtWeek, Art LTD, and The Los Angeles Times among others.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.

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