A Full Embrace: Jenna Gribbon on Alice Neel
In our upcoming Spring 2022 quarterly, we have an extensive survey and conversation about the upcoming exhibition, Alice Neel: People Come First, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco opening March 12, 2022. In conjunction with the feature, we asked a few contemporary artists about the influence of Neel, as both a portrait painter and that influence today as figuration as once again become a central focal point of contemporary art. One artist we spoke with his Jenna Gribbon, currently showing in London and known for her intimate portraits of friends, family and her partner.
"Alice Neel was one of the few artists I knew about growing up, so I just kind of took her for granted as a part of the fabric of art history. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood how anomalous her position really was, how hard fought was that little piece of territory. Her dogged commitment to figuration at a time when it was rejected by en vogue factions of the avant garde inspired me in the years before the current full embrace of figurative painting. What I connect to most in her work though, is way she employs her joy in the material tactility of paint to communicate what it is to take pleasure in expressing empathy for her subjects. Her paintings are populated not with 'figures' but with people whose specific humanity is baldly described with every stroke of her brush." —Jenna Gribbon