Joyce Pensato: Forgettabout It
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Joyce Pensato stands in her filthy New York studio. Paint cakes the walls and floor, there’s rubbish chucked everywhere, countless dolls, toys and kids’ masks stare back at her. Then she attacks the canvas. Pummels it, grinds away at it with a power sander, constantly creating and erasing and destroying.
It all sounds like the cliché of the woe-is-me tortured artist, but Pensato isn’t Jackson Pollock, and she’s not trying to convey how difficult her life is. Instead, the emotion running through these messy, hectic paintings and drawings is sheer manic hysteria. The toys and dolls are her subjects – so her images are filled with cartwheeling Donald Ducks, grinning Micky Mouses and scowling Batmans. They’re still-lifes of pop culture, but done brutally, with big aggressive brushstrokes. She erases them, punches the canvas, sands the paint away. So mean, so nasty.
But at first glance, these could almost be the works of any run-of-the-mill street artist – take a cartoon character, whack it messily on the side of a building and hey presto, you’re an idiot. But Pensato is so much more than just what’s on display. She’s a baffling, hysterical whirlwind of artistic intensity, she inhabits the images and they inhabit her back. Her studio is as much a work of art as the paintings, same with the way she lives and behaves. She’s a cross between action painter, performance artist and pop
The images here of Homer Simpson and Batman are hilarious and sinister; they’re big, gaping, violent LOLs, familiar but distorted. They’re pop culture dragged through the street, stuffed down the drain, stamped on, spat at, flushed down the bog, punched, kicked, set on fire and mocked. She’s messed up this pristine gallery just by being here, and she’ll mess you up too if you get close enough.