Joyce Pensato - New Now New York Wednesday, March 9, 2022 | Phillips

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  • The first 1980s painting by Joyce Pensato to come to auction, Inner Sprit is a prime example of the artist’s early body of work, emblematic of her approach during a crucial period in her development. Along with Looking Out, also executed in 1985 and held in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the present work provides a glimpse into the definition of several aspects of her distinctive visual idiom. While Pensato would forego color for her iconic cartoon paintings in the ‘90s, opting instead for a controlled palette of black, white, and very occasionally silver enamel paint, the previous decade found her exploring the potentiality of expression and depth of color unique to oil paint. It is fitting that at this time she cited Joan Mitchell, whom Pensato met during her time at the New York Studio School in the 1970s and one of the greatest voices of Abstract Expressionism, as a principal mentor. Indeed, the brilliantly layered color and impasto-rich, raw physicality of Inner Spirit betray the indelibly strong influence of her forebearer and friend.



    Even as Pensato shifted her subject matter to evocations of pop culture subjects, the gestural, mark-making approach that she developed in her ‘80s canvases such as Inner Spirit stayed characteristic of her new work; despite their signature immediacy, however, her paintings always involved much more meticulous consideration than can be discerned at first glance. “Painted and repainted in broad, blurred strokes, the images hemorrhage torrents of drips and splashes and appear to be made quickly, furiously,” Roberta Smith recalled. “In fact Ms. Pensato worked relatively slowly, studying, adjusting and revising her compositions until she got what she wanted.” Gesture takes several manifestations in Inner Spirit: not only is her meticulous layering visible through rich washes of color, the multiplicity and vibrance of which are particularly visible at the painting’s edges, but also through her vigorous slashing of the paint surface and, in some areas, the linen. A seminal example from Pensato’s early career, Inner Spirit is imbued with the pure dynamism that would become a hallmark of her pioneering—and undeniably unique—lexicon. 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1987)
      Gifted by the above to the present owner


Inner Spirit

signed, titled and dated "Pensato 1985 "INNER SPIRIT"" on the reverse
oil on linen
60 x 40 1/4 in. (152.4 x 102.2 cm)
Painted in 1985.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $30,240

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen

Head of Sale, New Now

212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 9 March 2022