Joyce Pensato, Cult Painter of Corrupted Cartoons, Dies Aged 78

The artist is remembered for her sinister interpretations of pop culture

Joyce Pensato attends the The Art Show Gala Preview at Park Avenue Armory, 2017, New York. Courtesy and photograph: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Joyce Pensato attends the The Art Show Gala Preview at Park Avenue Armory, 2017, New York. Courtesy and photograph: Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Celebrated artist Joyce Pensato, who was known for her paintings featuring cartoon motifs, has died aged 78.

The American painter was known for including cartoon figures in her paintings, including Mickey Mouse, Batman and characters from the Simpsons. Interested in the often sinister psychology of these ubiquitous pop symbols, Pensato depicted her subjects using expressive brushstrokes and worked in black and white enamel.

Born in 1941 in Brooklyn, Pensato spent much of her life living and working in the New York borough. Her art career began at the Art Students League, where she studied and later at the New York Studio School where she met Mercedes Matter, Joan Mitchell and Christopher Wool, artists who would go on to become significant to her art practice.

In the early 1990s, Pensato started making her characteristic cartoon paintings. In a 2017 review of Pensato’s solo show at Lisson Gallery, London, Charlie Fox wrote of her work: ‘Paint drools down canvas as noxiously as acid rain on chrome and any hints of Looney Tunes zaniness come spiked with something totally ghostly.’

Pensato was represented primarily by Lisson and Petzel and had solo shows at major institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Her work is part of the permanent collection of the MoMA, New York, the Whitney Museum of American art, the Centre Pompidou and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, amongst others.

A representative from Petzel gallery confirmed her death and the gallery’s founder, Friedrich Petzel said in a statement: ‘She has been an incredible spirit for all of us, every artist friend, collector, writer, and all of her fans in the gallery community. The last few months were hard for many of her admirers. But Joyce kept being Joyce, full of energy, humour, and drive to create art. Nothing could stop her, she has been a true inspiration for everyone who was touched by her.’

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