Monday, November 14, 2005

Artist of the Week (11/14/05)

The original idea with this column was to introduce artists who are perhaps not well known, but I've strayed from that objective a bit here and there (I'm like that...I resent strict guidelines). Moving forward, just so you know, I will be adding to the mix the artists who have exhibitions at our gallery once we re-open (looks like January now), because, well, I have to edit out so much of what I'd like to say about them from the press releases, and this seems a good place to share those thoughts. Besides, it's my blog... leave me want a piece of me??? er, uh... [note to self: caffienate...THEN write].

But back to why I mention the column's original goal: Brooklyn-born Joyce Pensato is one of the most underappreciated artists I can think of, which isn't to say she's unknown, just that she deserves to be a household name in my opinion. She's a genius in my book, and although she's represented by the prestigious Galerie Anne de Villepoix in Paris, why she's not represented by one of the blue chip galleries here in New York baffles me.* Oh she's exhibited consistently (the image above shows Joyce before one of her works at a recent exhibition at Parker's Box in Williamsburg), and she's had her share of recognition (having received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NY Foundation for the Arts Grant, and a grant from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation), but I honestly can't fathom why so many of the other artists given retrospectives at the major museums got theirs before Joyce. If forced to speculate, I'd say perhaps she's not precious enough for some folks, but letting that keep them at arm's length is totally their loss. Here's a image from 1999:

Joyce Pensato, untitled Mickey, 1999, charcoal on paper, 16.5 x 11.5 inches. Photo courtesy Pierogi Gallery. Image from website.

The first time I encountered Joyce's work was at the exhibition where artists moved their studios and worked in Exit Art's old space on Broadway...a sort of "watch the artist in their natural habitat" experience. There were 10 or so artists in that exhibition, if I recall correctly, but Joyce's section was far and away the most messy. Every surface of every object was seemingly smeared with soot, including countless stuffed toys of cartoon characters, the primary subject matter of Joyce's work. It was difficult to imagine any art object emerging from that disaster zone, but when I saw the furiously worked over pieces she was making, I fell instantly head-over-heels in love. Here was passion and energy and nostalgia and humor roaring with unbridled joi de vivre. As an Art in America review of her 2003 exhibition at Elga Wimmer gallery in New York put it: her works "have enough physical and psychic energy to make actual animation look like it's standing still."

Joyce studied at New York's Studio School, where according to an article about her work by artist Rachel Youens,
[A] stream of well established visiting artists who taught, critiqued, and told stories, study was rigorous and centered around many of many of Giacometti's ideas in particular, adapting his challenge to infuse pictures with the emotive qualities of things and reach beyond habitual ways of seeing. Students practiced measuring space and forms and developing an awareness of the effects of their peripheral vision, with an approach that doing and undoing would lead to a greater vision of nature. Years later, Pensato's processes and methods remain tied to this tradition of looking at and abstracting from nature.

Joyce Pensato, The Swimmer, 2004, Charcoal on paper, 40" x 50" (image from Studio School website).

One of my favorite projects that Joyce exhibited recently was the "Wigged and Wild" window installation at Parker's Box, featuring snapshots of Brooklyn and New York art types or just unsuspecting passersby wearing a platinum blonde wig she carried around and convinced them to wear. How animated this simple "disguise" made most people was truly amazing. It was as if Joyce were able to inject some of her energy into these usually cooler-than-thou folks via the wig. I was also one of Joyce's subjects for this and I barely recognized myself in the photo. I don't have my photo to share unfortunately, but here's another one from the series:

Joyce Pensato, untitled, photograph, 2003, (from Parker's Box website)

For more on Joyce, be sure and see these posts by James Wagner and Barry Hoggard. James included a close up of a piece Joyce recently exhibited at Sarah Bowen gallery that illustrates better than anything I could say how much raw energy goes into each of her works.

(image from James Wagner's blog)

And here are a few installation shots of Joyce's show there in 2003 to give you a better sense of her exquisitely grimey aesthetic:

Joyce Pensato, From the Hood and Other Places, 2002, mixed media 4 feet x 8 feet

Joyce Pensato, Donald as a Crossdresser, 1999, charcoal and pastel on paper
10 feet x 14 feet


Anonymous Auvi said...

Edward, you should use that as your passport photo

11/14/2005 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

that's not me auvi.

it's someone else, but I'd happily trade that for my passport photo (not for the squeamish).


11/14/2005 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to beat a dead horse, but the reaason she has not had a retrospective, like a lot of good women mid career artists is that , frankly shes a woman, duh. the art world for the most part only honors men, and expectional women, of whom pensato is among them, dont get what their male peers do. thats why. if she was a man, she would be making a lot more money, simple as that.

11/14/2005 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm not saying you're not right Anonymous, but can you point to any evidence of that in Joyce's case?

11/14/2005 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, christopher wool. a male peer of joyces. i am generalizing of course, there are always a lot of factors involved in why someone has not had the sucess they deserve. all i'm saying is that women do not get the same respect and gravitas as they age as do men, and there fore people do not pay the same money for their work. a scribble by wool is not considered the same as a scribble by pensato, their work having a lot of things in common. its a very complicated issue, one that i am involved in on a daily basis.i guess a lot of women have to get to be in their seventies before a museum will notice. if at all.

11/14/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

ok, christopher wool.

LOL...excellent argument!

all i'm saying is that women do not get the same respect and gravitas as they age as do men, and there fore people do not pay the same money for their work.

There is evidence of that, yes. One of our artists, Jennifer Dalton, researches such issues extensively. Her next exhibition looks very much like it's going to rattle some gilded cages on that front as well. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to it.

11/14/2005 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

The last (or bottom) piece you include in this piece, "Donald As A Crossdresser," is very nice, at least in reproduction, and I assume Pensato's works are much more impressive in person. I also like the "hanging" Mickey in the image above.

Oddly, I have neither seen nor read of her work before. Perhaps this has something to do with her sex or perhaps she is just too focused in terms of depicted subject matter. I suppose the jury is out.

11/14/2005 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

I think the womens be getting more respect than that, folks. Yuskasavage - Schutz - Eliz. Murray - Cindy Sherman getting mad props while Gregory Crewdson is getting the gas face - Jenny "The Mad Knife-Wielding Barber Of" Saville - Luhring did a show last year of big inept quotidian oil paintings by another less deserving lass - Monique Prieto whose predictable blobs I found tasty nonetheless, sad to see 'em go - other ladies, their names I can't recall - but getting mad props.

I'd agree with you this far: perhaps the art establishment is more accepting of that grimy Mickey-smeared-in-axle-grease aesthetic from a man than it is from a woman. But regardless, I don't think that "the Man's keepin' us down" argument holds as much water as it once did, in days of yore.

11/14/2005 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger carol es said...

maybe it doesn't hold as much water as it once did, but it's still an issue of severe inbalance.

11/15/2005 01:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe Joyce is represented by Elga Wimmer, you'd better call her and check. thanks

11/15/2005 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

call Joyce I mean

11/15/2005 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I didn't think so from the last time I talked with her Anon, but she is listed on the Wimmer's site.

I try err on the side of overstating the case of representation (which can mean many things) if I'm using images from a gallery's website...just in case....seems fair to send interested collectors there way.

I don't have Joyces' number to call her, but I should see her soon, so I'll ask

11/16/2005 07:32:00 AM  

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