Petzel Gallery is pleased to present “Batman Mask”, a limited edition of twenty bronze sculptures with four artist proofs from a collaboration between The Joyce Pensato Foundation and Case Studyo, Ghent. Pensato made her first bronze edition “Snowball Mickey” with Case Studyo in 2019 and selected three more of her works to translate into bronze to benefit her foundation. This edition is the fourth and final in the series which also includes “Lisa” (2020) and “Tipsy Donald” (2020).
“Batman Mask” is a bronze replica of a papier-mâché mask kept by Pensato in her studio. In the energetic environment of her workspace, the mask accumulated layers of spattered paint over time and consequently became a fixture of the studio, a work of art in its own right. With its lively assemblages that included everything from stuffed animals to photo clippings of celebrities and cartoons, Pensato’s studio has come to be understood as the beating heart of the artist’s larger oeuvre. Portions of the space, mask included, were part of several installations in the artist’s exhibitions, providing viewers with an intimate portal into her dynamic and highly expressive artistic process.
Joyce’s interest in the character of Batman is a continuation of a motif that held an endless fascination for the artist throughout her career—the reconfiguration of a beloved American icon in order to dig deeper at the darkness lying beneath pop culture’s seemingly wholesome veneer. The bronze rendition of the mask encompasses this darkness entirely, with its black patina and severed bottom half perfectly translating the Batman’s brittle backstory—one riddled with tragedy and involving an endless crusade for vengeance. Though fragmented and bodiless, the mask holds a resounding and sinister energy that is just as inherent to the corruption of Batman’s world as it is to our own.
Representing one piece of a tremendous life-force of creation, the original papier-mâché mask has been chosen as inspiration for the bronze “Batman Mask” as it perfectly captures Pensato’s lifelong dedication to her craft. It is a fitting inspiration for the final bronze in the series and is the only bronze which mirrors an original three-dimensional source.
Joyce Pensato lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York and studied at the New York Studio School. She was best known for her large-scale paintings which employed a familiar cast of cartoon characters, including Homer Simpson, Groucho Marx, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a character the artist called “The Juicer.” Pensato was committed to her baleful transmutation of American cartoon culture—employing her fast, assured, and gestural hand—to shed light on the arguable darkness lurking within our familiar Pop iconography.
She received many awards in her lifetime including The Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize (2013); The Award of Merit Medal for Painting from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2012); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2010); Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award (1997); Guggenheim Fellowship (1996); New York Foundation for the Arts (1995); and Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (1992).
Her work has been exhibited widely, including exhibitions at: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2017); Whitney Museum of American Art (2017); Kunstraum Innsbruck (2016); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2015); Santa Monica Museum of Art (2013); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2013); Speed Museum of Art (2011); Museum of Modern Art San Francisco (2000); and St. Louis Art Museum (1994).
Pensato’s work is included in the collections of: Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and FRAC des Pays de la Loire, France.