Magazine article Artforum International

Joyce Pensato: Corbett vs. Dempsey

Magazine article Artforum International

Joyce Pensato: Corbett vs. Dempsey

Article excerpt

CHICAGO

Joyce Pensato

CORBETT VS. DEMPSEY

In the early 1990s, Joyce Pensato shifted away from what she calls her "atmospheric" abstract paintings of previous decades to a parallel body of works based on charcoal drawings of cartoons, now transferred to black-and-white enamel paintings. Pensato models her paintings not on comic strips or animated cartoons per se but on their afterlives: Utilizing a composite of sources, she paints cartoon-themed objects from her own collection of flat cutouts originally intended as advertisements, and discarded toys. This stunning exhibition of eight large-scale paintings and seven charcoal drawings, all made in a primarily black-and-white palette, was a continuation of her ongoing work in this vein, with cartoon characters serving less as subject than as image. Also available, although not on view, was the photographic edition The Godmother and Mickey's: A color photograph of the artist, a cigarette drooping from her mouth, wearing mirrored sunglasses and clutching two paint-spattered stuffed Mickeys, advertised the exhibition while riffing on Pensato's Sicilian roots (via the classic film that stereotyped the people of that region)--interjecting the discourse on ethnicity and Americanness that runs throughout the artist's oeuvre.

Pensato's commitment to figuration cuts across art-historical movements. Invoking the emphatically black-and-white periods of Abstract Expressionists Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, her paintings evidence an autographic directness in the surety of their line work while proposing, intriguingly, "black-and-white" as an independent medium with its own line of vision. Take Chicago Eyes (all works 2016), in which an asymmetrical pair of cartoon eyes sourced from a combination of Felix the Cat and Donald Duck is set against a black background in such a way as to suggest an eye with a black iris (outlined in white) next to a white eyeball, even though black and white enamel are co-present in each form. The punctuated effect of Chicago Eyes is heightened by its installation amid others from a series of paintings populated by eyeballs. The drips in the works are visually driven, rather than acting as ironic representations of abstraction. In Eyes Wide Open, networks of drips appear as if veins. Sing Song Eyes, Runaway Eyes, and All Them Eyes gesture toward the stereotypes embedded in their comic sources while remaining abstracted from narrative context. For all of her cues toward AbEx--stylistically, but more deeply in that movement's attention toward the relation between feeling and looking--Pensato equally encapsulates Pop art in its most historic sense. …

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