One could consider Marisol a great post-war American artist obscured by history. Working in New York throughout the 1960s, her contemporaries were the famous avant-garde artists we know today–definitively–as either Pop or Abstract Expressionist. But Marisol’s mixed-media sculptures were neither. Although her work was popular, critically acclaimed, and respected amongst her peers, it could not be neatly categorized. And as she shifted themes into the 1970s and continued to vary her materials, the artist defied classification all the more.
Her public persona did little to combat the oblique legacy. From time to time, Marisol would refrain from speaking altogether, having developed an aversion to speech after hearing how other people sounded as a child. Taking cues from Pop celebrity pal Andy Warhol, she embraced her own eccentricities as a way of generating public interest in her art. “Otherwise, not so many people would notice your work,” she told Cindy Nemser in 1975. It worked. Kinda. She was referred to as the “Latin Garbo” to readers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, but Marisol was not suited for celebrity. Life as an art scene icon on Warhol’s arm was not for long. She embarked on spontaneous trips around the world, more than once, only furthering her mystique.
Transient was how she spent her early life, so traveling came naturally. Her jet-setting parents, both Venezuelan, moved the family “back and forth between Europe, Venezuela, and the United States” Marisol recalled in 1972, “not because of business but out of boredom.”
From here it is easy to see why she became an artist: Her identity became her art–and in turn, as we will see through her varied portraiture, her art is about identity!
With this in mind, reintroducing Marisol–or discovering her for the first time–is at the heart of Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper, on view June 14–September 7, at the Brooks. In anticipation of this retrospective, Chief and exhibition curator Marina Pacini reached out to local sculpture students, basically asking them to get a leg up on introducing Memphis to Marisol. The results are 17 sculptural interpretations of Marisol’s work, on display in businesses and galleries in the South Main Arts District until June 21.