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Joyce Pensato (1941-2019)
Joyce Pensato (1941-2019)
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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
Joyce Pensato (1941-2019)

Sunset Batman

Details
Joyce Pensato (1941-2019)
Sunset Batman
signed, titled and dated ‘Joyce Pensato 2016 SUNSET BATMAN’ (on the reverse)
enamel and metallic paint on linen
70 x 90 in. (177.8 x 228.6 cm.)
Executed in 2016.
Provenance
Petzel Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

"She drew on pop culture characters for inspiration, but often imbued them with raw, uncontrollable feelings." - New York Times

Joyce Pensato’s large-scale painting Sunset Batman is striking portrait of America’s most revered fictional superhero. Using broad gestural brushstrokes and torrents of enamel drips and splashes, the artist imbued popular culture characters with the gripping angst of the German Expressionists. Revealing for a moment what lays beneath Batman’s mask, audiences are confronted by a sense of darkness lurking within their childhood superheroes.

Pensato drew much of her inspiration from her surroundings in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York. From street murals to graffitied walls, the artist embodied the same graphic quality in Sunset Batman with successive layers of industrial black and white enamel paint. The thick, yet quick-drying temperament of enamel paint enabled Pensato to create Batman’s mask using bold linear gestures and rapid splattering in an instant. Echoing the action paintings of Jackson Pollock, who also worked with enamel paint, Joyce Pensato broadens the versatility of the medium by incorporating a visceral scraping technique to reveal underlying layers. In Sunset Batman, Pensato also employed her seldom seen bursts of colour – metallic silver. American Abstract Expressionist and former mentor Joan Mitchell would ask Pensato, “Do you want to be one of those German Expressionists, all dark? Or do you want to be one of the French painters, like Matisse or Cezanne, with light and colour?”. It was clear that Pensato was the former. From the woodcuts of Käthe Kollwitz to the etchings of Otto Dix, Sunset Batman is clearly influenced by the same daring content, bold composition and emotional impulse of the German Expressionists.

Batman – a motif that first appeared as early as the mid-1970s, was only used periodically until Pensato’s breakout show at Petzel Gallery in 2012. Titled, Batman Returns, this solo show was filled with drawings and paintings of the superhero amongst old furniture, milk crates and toys. At the time, Robert Storr, the former MoMA curator and Dean, School of Art at Yale University, wrote:

"For all the promotional talk about artists who just go at it their own way there aren't very many who really run that risk, and fewer still who run it year in and year out over decades. Joyce Pensato has and continues to do so. The results are full tilt, high gear, id-driven images that freely, even piratically take from popular culture but which, when she is finished with its icons, look like nothing we've seen before. Pensato's work is a jolt of manic energy of a kind we desperately need, a kind that can't be faked and that few have the strength to muster much less the stamina to sustain."

For Pensato, this series of Batman drawings and paintings was what propelled the artist’s career into a series of accolades, honours and awards. In March, Pensato received the Award of Merit Medal for Painting by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. By December, the artist was awarded the Robert de Niro, Sr. Award - a prize created in honour of the actor Robert De Niro’s late father, who was a painter from the New York School of post-war American artists.

Pensato’s playful, yet undeniably sinister portraits of Amercia’s loved cartoons reflected the fast-moving speed of contemporary culture, which has caught the attention of those in the art world. The artist has achieved considerable institutional success, with many of her works in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and FRAC des Pays de la Loire in France. In an article published by Time Out London in 2014, Pensato stated that “I just don’t want the work to be nice or sweet...I want the work to be deeper, to have more personality” (Time Out London, March 27, 2014.)

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