Marisol receives renewed attention at the Pérez Art Museum Miami

This article is part of our latest special section on museums, which focuses on new artists, new audiences and new ways of thinking about exhibitions.


MIAMI — In the 1960s, when Pop Art first swept across America, a sculptor known as Marisol swept through the New York art scene like a long shooting star.

Its witty, blocky wooden figures of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and their families; Hollywood celebrities like John Wayne and Bob Hope; and ordinary people drew praise in posh galleries and the Museum of Modern Art. She dated Andy Warhol and may even have inspired some of his work.

She was featured in The New York Times Magazine and appeared on the cover of Glamor magazine. Time magazine featured his sculptures on three covers. Life magazine named her one of its 100 rising young people.

But at her peak in 1968, Marisol retired and disappeared from the public radar. She left for five years. “When she came back, the world had changed,” said Marina Pacini, retired chief curator of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Marisol returned to work in her New York loft and was well regarded. But his flame never burned so bright again. When she died six years ago, aged 85, the obituaries read like introductions to a notable artist from long ago.

Now she’s back in the spotlight at the beautiful Bayside Pérez Art Museum Miami, a venue that showcases some of the best-known modern and contemporary artists and celebrates a rainbow of often underappreciated artists from Miami, Latin America and the Caribbean. The exhibition opened on April 15 and will run until September 5.

Marisol shares the stage with Warhol – but instead of drowning it out, he amplifies it. They worked on some of the same topics. He painted Jackie Kennedy. She sculpted the Kennedy family. He filmed Marisol. She portrayed it. They had an intriguing way of talking a little and suggesting a lot that nurtured a sense of glamor and mystery that some experts say Warhol might have learned from her.

Jessica Beck, curator at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, came up with the idea of ​​pairing the artists in order to reintroduce Marisol and show the overlap of ideas and influences. His exhibition, “Marisol and Warhol Take New York”, ran for four months in Pittsburgh.

In Miami, the exhibition opens with photographs of Marisol and Warhol at the Empire State Building, a Marisol sculpture of two tourists returning from France, and a painting of repetitive Warhol images of the Statue of Liberty.

A few meters away is Marisol’s interpretation of Warhol. He is dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, seated with one leg crossed, on a straight-backed chair.

Just around the corner, the show explodes with an electrifying wall of bright yellow Warhol cow heads scurrying in rows against a deep blue backdrop. The cow wallpaper draws the eye to a handful of Marisol’s sculptures.

His John Wayne gallops stiff-backed over an elongated red carousel pony, a silver six-gunner held high. The Kennedys stand at attention, a long row of Warhol portraits of Jackie behind them.

The centerpiece is Marisol’s “Dinner Date”: two women at a small table, staring ahead, preparing to dig into TV dinners. Both look like Marisol. She dines with herself.

Nine Warhol short films are running continuously. You see Marisol clowning around with “Dinner Date” on the flickering screen. Then you stand next to it. The camera zooms in on Marisol’s ruby ​​red lips. Across the room, you see the same ruby ​​red lips in Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor.

“The films bring the exhibit to life,” Ms. Beck said. “They show the connection.”

Marisol was born María Sol Escobar in Paris to wealthy, globetrotting Venezuelan parents. She compressed her first name to Marisol and eventually dropped the last name, she said in the Times Magazine article, “to stand out from the crowd.”

Her mother committed suicide when she was 11 and Marisol stopped talking. She started again little by little, but rarely spoke much and was prone to long silences. “She had a soft voice and a slight accent,” said Avis Berman, a New York arts writer, recalling an interview with Marisol in 1983.

At 20, Marisol immersed herself in abstract expressionism in New York. But she turned to sculpture. “It was all so serious,” she said in the Times Magazine article. “I was very sad myself and the people I met were so depressing. I started doing something funny to get happier – and it worked.”

Much of Marisol’s work was very different from the slick, commercial graphic art productions of Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and other pop stars. Yet she was magnetic. “You didn’t need to know anything about Pop Art, about any movement, about feminism, you just answered,” Ms Pacini said.

In 1968, Marisol headed to the prestigious Venice Biennale and documented it in Germany as a featured artist. Instead of returning to New York, she explored Asia, poked around Latin America and scuba-dived in Tahiti.

His look has changed. “I don’t work for the general public anymore,” she told Cindy Nemser for her 1975 book, “Art Talk.” “I lost interest in them.”

Marisol bequeathed her New York loft, approximately 150 sculptures, and all of her other art objects to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, the first museum to purchase one of her sculptures. The museum is hosting a big Marisol show for fall 2023.

For art historians, artists and collectors like Jorge Pérez, the billionaire promoter who donated tens of millions of dollars to the Miami museum, Marisol, as Mr. Pérez said the other night, “never disappeared”.

“We all know her,” said Franklin Sirmans, director of the museum. “That’s really the whole idea of ​​the exhibition. We want everyone to know her.

Mildred D. Field