Joyce Pensato has become well known for her freshly gestural drawings and paintings of cartoon figures, based on a wide-ranging and motley family of familiar faces mostly drawn from an American roster of well-known characters. The artist’s feverish brushstrokes transform, metamorphose, dissect, deconstruct, and analyze her models. Like all good analysts, Joyce Pensato has amassed experience and knowledge from every session spent in the company of her huge collection of long-suffering soft-toy sitters. Thus, her ostensibly lackadaisical, unfettered expressions become evermore knowing and penetrating, and the artist is always able to astonish by surpassing herself with each body of work.
Joyce Pensato has maintained challengingly intimate, long-term relationships with the likes of Mickey Mouse and Donald, for example, with recurringly magnificent results. At the same time, lesser known, and more mysterious characters have cropped up of late, such as Zozo (a politically incorrect 1950’s French monkey), or the more profoundly enigmatic Bunny, exuding inexplicable self-confidence from its impenetrable eyes.
These new portraitees, (like the much-admired Marsupilami of 2005), take the work boldly beyond the oft quoted view of Pensato’s practice as being symptomatic of a second generation American’s love-hate view of the world. Indeed, the children of immigrant paradise-seekers may always have such a caustic and ironic humor about things American- especially when a distant AbEx upbringing is thrown into the mix. But for Pensato, recent secret encounters hosted at her studio between stalwarts like the Simpsons, and unshakeable newcomers like Bunny, offer huge swathes of new potential. Here, technique, spontaneity and pure inspiration fuse seamlessly with involuntary insights into philosophy, identity, and existence, all delivered with precision-guided, heat-seeking slaps in the chops. As such, Pensato’s new paintings have radical but refined contributions to make to the renewed and renewable debate of current painting- a discipline nonchalantly proving its eternal youthfulness and relevance to contemporary culture, through the work of artists whose practice is as fresh and new and sparkling as that of Ms. Pensato.