Though Joyce Pensato (American, b. 1941) has been considered a “painter’s painter” for decades, she has received broader critical acclaim for her work in recent years and was featured in a traveling museum survey in 2013. Her wildly expressive paintings—comprised of confident smears and dabs of dripping, viscous paint—are typically anchored by popular culture characters, such as Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck. One of her paintings is featured in Riot Grrrls, an MCA collection-based exhibition inspired in part by Pensato’s rebellious spirit.
Pensato has created a new mural for the MCA’s second-floor Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Family Lobby, Felix and Lincoln (2012–13/2016), that breaks new ground for the artist. She has exhibited photographs of her studio before, revealing paint-splattered surfaces and inspirational images and objects scattered on walls and floors. But for this mural she expands photographic imagery of her studio to monumental proportions. The mural depicts two images of a young Abraham Lincoln layered over an abstracted Felix the Cat painting, another favorite motif of the artist. Rendered at extremely large scale, the spattered paint and helter-skelter arrangement of materials may make visitors feel as if they have stumbled into the artist’s Brooklyn studio and have been immersed in the energy of creation. The image is relevant to Chicago, too, which claims Lincoln as a native son; he could be viewed as a reminder of a vaunted statesmanship lacking in our current political climate.