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Marisol Escobar (1930–2016)

On Saturday, April 30, artist Marisol Escobar died. Born in Paris in 1930 to Venezuelan parents who traveled frequently, the artist, who preferred to be called Marisol, studied art at the Jepson Art Institute, École des Beaux-Arts, the Art Students League of New York, and the New School for Social Research where she studied under Hans Hoffman.

“I was born an artist. Afterwards, I had to explain to everyone what that meant,” Marisol once said.

After moving to New York in the 1950s, the trend defying artist decided to focus on sculpture and became associated with Pop art early on. She would appear in two of Warhols’s films, Kiss (1963) and Thirteen Most Beautiful Women (1964). David Colman of the New York Times wrote, “If ever there was anyone who could out-Warhol Andy Warhol, it is Marisol Escobar.”

Her first show solo show in 1957 at Leo Castelli’s gallery in New York consisted of woodcarvings, terracottas, and welded sculptures. Her work was also included in MoMA’s groundbreaking 1961 exhibition “The Art of the Assemblage.” Perhaps best known for her large figural sculptures that were often influenced by Mexican, pre-Columbian, and American folk art, Marisol would repeatedly explore the themes of gender roles, the legacies of artists she admired, and the depiction of Native Americans in her art.

She has received numerous awards including the Premio Gabriela Mistral from the Organization of American States for her contribution to Inter-American culture in 1997. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1978.

After the chief curator of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Marina Pacini, put on a survey of Marisol’s work—“Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper”— in 2014, there was a renewed interest in the artist. The show traveled to El Museo de Barrio and was her first major museum retrospective in New York.

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