The blending of cartoon with vigorous gesture is a recurring ideal in painting. I date it to Rauschenberg’s early 50s collages, but maybe further back to Schwitters, who preferred to just tear them kurtly to schwitters. Anyway Saul started out trying it, Guston ended up trying it, de Kooning glimpsed it, Lichtenstein kept trying it in odd moments. Warhol had a go at it, on behalf of Johns. Johns probably could have, but wouldn’t allow himself to. There was some black guy on an Art21 that does it as well, more recently, but his name escapes me. But they were crappy as well. Even I had a go at it in art school. But in my art school, cartoons were considered high brow, literature really. Actually, reading was considered high brow. Those were fun days, looking back.
Anyway, about the only convincing blend of gesture and cartoon I’ve seen is Joyce Pensato’s
obsessively worked large drawings/paintings. George should look carefully at them – the quality of the line, the arabesques, the big round cartoony eyes – they’re all there in a really hard fought reconciliation. Because Joyce gives herself room for the painting or gesture, she really strips the cartoon figures down, spreads them out over the picture, which I think is the secret – rather than alternating between faithful rendition of favourite old cartoon character and a bit of splash and giggle under and over it, the lines and fills blow out into rugged arenas. She does not have a huge oeuvre, it's true. She is not very versatile. But the one thing she does get so right is this interface between cartoon and expressionism.
I’d rather see a Pensato show
than a Condo show, really.
But one thing I neglected to mention above about Condo, is the strong affinity/influence, no so much with John Currin, but Currin’s old studio-partner, Sean Landers
. When Landers is not doing his text things, he keeps having a go at the sort of kitsch/lowlife references Currin effortlessly absorbs, and the results are much more like Condo.