The title of the current exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, I KILLED KENNY, is meant to invoke the vernacular of “South Park.” The monumental paintings and charcoal drawings that artist Joyce Pensato rendered directly onto the Museum’s walls hint at the sardonic wit and cultural take of the animated superhit. Pensato appropriates lots of iconic American cartoon characters as her points of departure. She depicts Batman as a hollow, deliquescent mask, Bart Simpson peers through abraded skin, and Felix the Cat is delivered as a decapitated head.
But it isn’t all from the funny pages. I KILLED KENNY, on view until August 17, 2013, also debuts a series of paint-splattered collages in which historic images of Abraham Lincoln are overlaid with portraits of iconic Hollywood celebrities including Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull”. Coincidentally, the Brooklyn native Pensato recently won The Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize, a $25,000 award named after the actor’s father, an important 20th century abstract expressionist painter.
Joyce Pensato, Welcome to My Party, 2013, Enamel Wall Painting at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist, Petzel Gallery, New York, Galerie Anne de Villapoix, Paris, Corbet vs. Dempsey, Chicago, Photo by Monica Orozco.