My fiancé and I live in Chelsea, known to many as the art gallery epicenter of New York City. Peppering the sidewalks like haphazard splashes of paint on a Pollock canvas, there are almost 350 concurrent exhibitions at any given time. Some Saturdays, with no plan in mind, we meander the avenues neighboring the Hudson River and walk from 20th street until 25th. One such day in February, 2012 we stumbled upon Petzel Gallery.
Anarchy, animation, trash, charcoal, linen and the world of a deranged evil villain collide in the gallery.
Batman Returns, the show by artist Joyce Pensato ran from January 12 – February 25, 2012. Pensato, is an artist born, raised and currently working in Brooklyn. Her proximity to Gotham is not lost on me. “Batman” is a motif that first appeared in Pensato’s drawings as early as the mid-1970’s. “I was resisting working with the traditional still life — apples and pears and all that crap,” she says. Something clicked when she first sketched the caped crusader. “I just fell in love with Batman. I think it was the ears.
Alongside the motif of the masked bat, Pensato’s paintings and drawings incorporate familiar cartoon imagery of clowns, Homer Simpson, South Park’s Kyle Broflovski, Groucho Marx, Mickey Mouse, and a character the artist refers to as “The Juicer.” I perhaps even spotted Edward “Ed” Bighead, a fictional character from the cartoon series Rocko’s Modern Life, hidden among the epherma and ebay-sourced tchotchkes.
In a world reliant on ben day dots, color gradient and neon POWs, Pensato’s aesthetic is mostly high contrast Black and White.
My fiance adores comics. In fact, we just refueled (read: restocked) at Bergen Street Comics with such storied (pun!), graphic novels as Kick Ass, Maus, The Long Halloween, Knightfall and The Killing Joke. Michael says Batman is his favorite superhero because he does not technically have any supernatural powers, only intelligence and his fortune, both of which are relatively attainable compared to radioactive spiders, underwater communication, invisibility and allergies to kryptonite. Not just based on fantasy and entertainment, Pensato’s vision is morbid and macabre. Examining the American cartoon culture, she asks us to re-imagine our childhoods, the connotations of joy, and the assumed gestalt of Pop Iconography.
Joyce Pensato’s “Fuggetabout it III. Photo courtesy the Artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York.
Not your typical fangirl, but still want to live in a decrepit, ironic yet relatable world?