Unavoidably Charismatic Vibe

Joyce Pensato Holy Blackout Batman 2015

“The first thing one notices about the paintings on display is the immediacy with which they are painted. There is a dark, brooding feeling of aggression that pulls itself across the surfaces of the 9 large paintings that decorate Petzel’s main gallery space. The sense of storm and stress that pervades this room is almost physically present. Though each of the bizarre cartoons, leering manically from their various positions on the wall, has a clear sense of personality, the material sense of paint overwhelms the figurative depictions beneath. Pensato’s “Castaway Mickey” grins eerily at visitors, emanating a totally unsettling but unavoidably charismatic vibe. While it might be easy to start to imagine the fucked-up inner thoughts of this would-be character, the violent, almost performative gusto with which this painting was made tends to wrench you out of that sort of reverie. It is this tension between the subject matter and materiality that lends these works their indecipherable, mysterious quality.” [Howard Hurst on Joyce Pensato]

Joyce Pensato Twins 2005

“I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE my first ever solo show in the East Village at Fiction/Nonfiction gallery in 1991. A couple of the Mickey Mouse drawings I had started doing were going to be in it. For two years I’d been making work for this show, and just a couple of weeks before it was supposed to go up, it got canceled…. [T]he cancellation forced me to really look at what I was doing and thinking about, and what I liked looking at. For the longest time I’d been torn, divided—I had two sides to me as an artist, and I was longing to just become one, totally unafraid of who I wanted to be. One side of me was making these colorful, atmospheric, AbEx-y landscapes, while the other was making these charcoal drawings that were simple, black-and-white, graphic. And I really wanted to make the drawings paintings—it just made sense to me. I like being messy and I love throwing paint around and fucking it all up. But I also like the structure drawing provides.” [Joyce Pensato in conversation with Alex Jovanovich]

Joyce Pensato, Chicago Eyes, 2016

“There were so few women artists to look up to, and she was in the art history books. She was a woman painter who was totally passionate. Joan [Mitchell] and Mercedes [Matter] were both strong-willed women and they were my mentors. Mercedes was like a cheerleader, and Joan was the critical mom. As I got healthier psychologically, my trips to visit Joanie became shorter, and eventually I stopped going. The first trip was six months, then maybe two months, and I think the last one was two weeks. One of the last things she said to me was, “Are you still doing those animals? Do you still have that skin disease in your work?”
A couple of months into my first visit, Joan said, “What kind of painter do you want to be? Do you want to be one of those German Expressionists painting without color, without light? Or, do you want to be French — with light and color and air?” I would say, “I want to be French!” But, after I left, I realized that I was an Expressionist, painting without color.” [Joyce Pensato in conversation with Jennifer Samet ]

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