Published: June 26, 2001
PURCHASE, N.Y. – From June 17 through September 2 the Neuberger Museum of Art will present “Marisol,” the first comprehensive overview of Marisol Escobar’s work from the 1960s through the 1990s. others, fleetingly. The exhibition reveals the wit, subtle humor and social satire inherent in Marisol’s work.
In the 1950s, Marisol developed a technique for combining painting, drawing, stenciling, casting and carving with ready-made objects. Her enigmatic assemblages combine an appealing mixture of illusion and reality, crudeness and sophistication. Although Marisol is associated with the 1960s Pop movement, her style reveals strong elements of assemblage techniques that originated in Cubist fragmentation and collage. Her frontal views and chunky perspectives evoke the sculpture of ancient Egypt, a genre also devoted to portraiture and scenes reflective of its times.
Marisol’s wide range of themes and subjects frequently elude categorization. However, the vantage of time permits a view of her oeuvre that defines more clearly the varying elements that bond it together.
A fully illustrated color monograph that accompanies the exhibition includes an essay written by noted art critic Eleanor Heartney. “What endures in Marisol’s work is the universality of the impulses she captures. Truly a sculptor of modern life, she evokes the venality of social climbers, the integrity of great artists, the contradictions of the powerful and the quiet dignity of the dispossessed. She feels both their absurdity and their pain and encourages us to do the same,” Heartney observes.
Marisol was born in Paris in 1930 to Venezuelan parents. Her early years were caught up in European travel with her family then commuting between Caracas and the United States. When she was 11, Marisol was sent to boarding school following the death of her mother. Subsequently, in the early fifties, she declared her interest in art and announced her wish to study in Paris. Her father supported her art interests but felt that she would be safer in New York.
Ironically, New York was then the center of a radical bohemian culture that Marisol embraced eagerly. She studied at the Art Students League, the New School of Social Research and Hans Hofmann’s painting school. As she associated and integrated with local artists, she absorbed and adopted their prevailing aesthetic and her work changed and expanded.
In 1961, Marisol was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking exhibition “The Art of Assemblage.” Her amusing sculpture portrayal of tourists entitled “From France,” was included alongside works of Twentieth Century pioneers such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
Marisol evolved into a major figure in contemporary art. In 1963, Life magazine commissioned a work for an upcoming movie issue. The result, “John Wayne,” is a satirical take on the super-macho image that the actor embodied. The artist’s lifelong inclination has been to poke fun at the prosperous while conveying sympathy for the less fortunate.
“She is an artist capable of creating both a wonderful parody of the macho ideal represented by John Wayne and a reverent homage to South African Bishop Desmond Tutu,” notes Eleanor Heartney. “She has made deeply personal works like `Mi Mama Y yo,’ a poignant portrait of herself as a little girl with her mother. She has also produced witty, caustic representations of world leaders like Franco, De Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and sensitive depictions (represented in the exhibition) of artists Picasso, de Kooning and Georgia O’Keeffe in the later years of their lives.”
Marisol is also the Neuberger Museum of Art 2001 Biennial Exhibition of Public Art Honoree, on view throughout the Purchase College campus through October 27. She is represented in the show by her 1997 bronze sculpture “The General.”
The Neuberger Museum of Art is on the campus of Purchase College, State University of New York, Westchester County. Museum hours are 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Friday, 11 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday; 914-251-6100.
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