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Santa Monica Museum of Art presents Joyce Pensato: I KILLED KENNY

Santa Monica Museum of Art presents Joyce Pensato: I KILLED KENNY, the artist’s first museum survey and her first exhibition in Los Angeles. The exhibition, on view from June 1 to August 17, 2013 in the Museum’s Main Gallery, features monumental enamel paintings and large-scale charcoal drawings rendered directly onto SMMoA’s gallery walls. These new, site-specific works are contextualized by a selection of charcoal drawings and key paintings made between 1990 and the present. The exhibition’s title, I KILLED KENNY, invokes the vernacular of “South Park,” framing Pensato’s visual vocabulary within the cartoon’s sardonic wit and cultural critique.

Appropriating iconic American cartoon characters as her point of departure, Pensato’s gestural paintings and drawings flicker in the liminal space between menacing abstraction and comedic representation: Batman is depicted as a hollow, deliquescent mask, Bart Simpson peers through abraded skin, and Felix the Cat is rendered as a decapitated head. Pensato’s paintings reinvigorate the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, imbuing her taxonomy of characters—The Simpsons, South Park, Donald and Daisy Duck, Olive Oil, and Mickey Mouse—with an uninhibited and arresting presence. Through her dynamic application of paint and pop cultural references, Pensato’s compositions boldly extend the possibilities of action painting. As curator-at-large Jeffrey Uslip recently noted in Art in America’s January 2013 centenary issue, “Pensato wields black, white, and silver industrial enamel paint with intimidating ferocity; her expressive and psychologically charged paintings materialize the disintegration of America’s social fabric.”

I KILLED KENNY also debuts a series of paint-splattered collages, in which historic images of Abraham Lincoln are overlaid with portraits of iconic Hollywood celebrities, contemporary artists, and legendary American boxers—Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Gena Rowlands in Gloria, Christopher Wool in his studio, and publicity stills of Muhammad Ali. Pensato’s new Lincoln collages provide further aesthetic context: In these works, Pensato’s signature splatters of industrial paint exploit the material’s visceral physicality, careening America’s fraught social and political past into the forefront of our contemporary consciousness.

SMMoA’s executive director Elsa Longhauser says of the exhibition, “The Santa Monica Museum of Art prides itself on presenting work by artists who have made a singular contribution to the art historical canon. Joyce Pensato has devoted herself to creating a lifework that is fearlessly executed and radically innovative; she is an important touchstone for artists of all ages.”

The exhibition will travel to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis for display January 24 through April 13, 2014. The accompanying full-color catalog includes an interview with the artist by Ali Subotnick, curator at the Hammer Museum, and an essay by Jeffrey Uslip.

Joyce Pensato was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she continues to live and work. Her work has recently been shown at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York; Capitain Petzel Gallery, Berlin; Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris; and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago. She has also been included in exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Dallas Museum of Art; the St. Louis Art Museum; Speed Art Museum, Louisville; and the Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France.

Joyce Pensato: I KILLED KENNY is organized by Jeffrey Uslip, Curator-at-Large for the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Santa Monica Museum of Art
Bergamot Station Arts Center, G1
2525 Michigan Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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