María Sol Escobar, better known by the name Marisol, was born in Paris in 1930. The daughter of Venezuelan parents, Marisol spent much of her childhood moving between Venezuela, Europe, and the United States. After her mother's suicide in 1941, Marisol spent a year in a boarding school on Long Island, New York, followed by other relocations until the family settled in Los Angeles in 1946. After graduating from high school in 1949, she studied painting in Paris for a year at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian. Dissatisfied with her training, she returned to the United States. Marisol's chronology after she settled in New York in 1950 is not entirely clear, and this is in part due to inconsistencies and contradictions in her own accounts. It is known, however, that she spent time in Venezuela over the years and engaged with the art world there as well as with high society in Caracas.
From 1951 to 1963 she trained intermittently in New York at the Art Students League, Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, New School for Social Research, and Brooklyn Museum Art School. She took private drawing and painting classes—even after she had made the shift from painting to sculpture in 1954—as well as courses in ceramics after 1955. Her sculptures—in materials that include metal, terra-cotta, stone, and carved wood—soon caught the attention of artists and gallery owners, including Leo Castelli, who organized her first solo show in 1957. After this, Marisol began to work on a larger scale and added to her sculptures a signature polychromatic quality. Clear references to pop art are conspicuous in works such as John Wayne (1963), exhibited in New York at her second solo show, at Stable Gallery in 1964. In this sculpture Marisol played with constructions of gender by giving the figure of the actor three casts of her own hands. This practice of appending parts of her body, most often her face, to her sculptures would continue throughout her career.
In the late 1960s she participated in important group shows both in the United States and internationally, representing Venezuela at the 1968 Venice Biennale. Attention to her works diminished in the 1970s for various reasons: she spent several years traveling outside the United States, and her pop, object-based oeuvre was perhaps seen as out of touch with the languages of minimalism and conceptual art, which were on the rise. She remained, however, a recognized artist. Marisol's witty and socially engaged sculptures and prints are in major collections, such as those of the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Her work is also in Venezuelan museums, including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and Galería de Arte Nacional in Caracas. In 1978 the American Academy of Arts and Letters elected Marisol to membership. In 1984 the Venezuelan government awarded her the prestigious Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas, and in 1997 the Organization of American States awarded her the Premio Gabriela Mistral. In 2016 Marisol died of pneumonia in New York at the age of eighty-five.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1957 Marisol, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
1964 Marisol, Stable Gallery, New York
1973 Marisol, Estudio Actual, Caracas
1981 Artists and Artistes by Marisol, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
1998 Marisol: Recent Sculptures, Marlborough Gallery, New York
Marisol. Worcester, MA: Worcester Art Museum, 1971.
Marisol. Purchase, NY: Neuberger Museum of Art, 2001.
Nemser, Cindy. Art Talk: Conversations with Twelve Women Artists. New York: Scribner, 1975.
Pacini, Marina. Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.
Recent Work by Arman, Dine, Fählstrom, Marisol, Oldenburg, Segal, at Sidney Janis. New York: Sidney Janis Gallery, 1965.