Walking into Joyce Pensato's one-person show is like stepping into someone else's fantasy where the inhabitants are kindly, funny, and sometimes hilarious. Pensato sets her sights on the likes of Donald Duck, Homer Simpson, Zozo (a 1950s politically correct monkey from France), and the ever-present Bunny. These figures are obviously friends of the artist - studio playmates who dance with her as she wields big strokes of drippy enamel.
Since she only uses black and white paint, there is an overwhelming sense of another age when the cartoon was in its infancy, and when the audience was fresh. And that is a key to all this - the work is fresh, alive, vibrant, and visceral. In the back of the gallery, you can see a video of the sixty-ish Pensato working - sometimes in slow motion; other times, the action is sped up - giving the viewer the understanding that she doesnâ€™t just paint, she exports, she emotes - an artist completely and unabashedly immersed in her iconography. It is wonderful to see. So, when you swing back and re-enter the work throughout the gallery, a second wave of elements emerges through the dashing and darting lines that drip white and black. Relationships come to the fore in the expressions in the faces and the placement of the figures within the grounds they inhabit.
Bunny is bold, yet stupefied. Zozo is unflinchingly optimistic. Donald Duck could use a little TLC, and Homer (image above) is tripping. I also found a collection of numerous photographs to be quite helpful in understanding the artistâ€™s angle on all this. It seems to be about culture, pop culture, but within the context of the character-driven narrative, which Pensato participates in and records with verve and vivacity. - D. Dominick Lombardi
This Must Be the Place runs through November 20 at Parkerâ€™s Box, 193 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY. Gallery hours are Friday to Monday 1 to 7 PM
D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY; a writer with Sculpture, DART, & Magazine and NYARTS; and an independent curator.