At PRECOGNITO, SMMoA’s May gala, honoree Peter Sellars declared that the Museum would soon be the “Station of Illumination.” It was a brilliant nod to the coming Metro Expo Line, and the Museum’s role as a creative conduit for commuters travelling from the east side of Los Angeles to the west.
Responding to the imminent changes, SMMoA has partnered with artist Bettina Hubby to present Dig the Dig, a series of construction site-specific installations designed to turn dust and disruption into art that engages the passers-by. Hubby has placed hand-painted safety cones, reworked as vases for sunflowers and succulents, around the site to delight workers and museum visitors. She has also mounted a series of kaleidoscopic banners on the chain link fence. Dig the Dig reflects another observation by Sellars: “To me, the human scale of the Santa Monica Museum of Art—the fact that this beautiful staff of people keeps creating these small acts of beauty that we can experience at an intimate level—is simply irreplaceable.”
Joyce Pensato: I KILLED KENNY, which opened on June 1, is the first major museum exhibition of a singular artist whose fascination with iconic American cartoon characters is currently writ-large on the Museum’s walls. During the installation, which surveys paintings and works on paper from the 1970s to the present, Pensato transformed the Museum into her studio—scattering it with a menagerie of toys, masks, and photographs, all riddled with paint and thus marked as her own. Using these objects as her subjects, Pensato painted monumental figures directly on the walls in exquisitely choreographed brushstrokes and gestures.
Although different in concept and form, this project brings to mind Michael Asher’s celebrated 2008 exhibition, where he rebuilt the temporary walls of all past exhibitions and highlighted the Museum’s ability to reinvent itself and to give itself over to every show and every artist. This season, we have given ourselves over to Joyce Pensato, housing the energy and vitality of her indomitable lifework.