Marlo Pascual (1972–2020)

Philadelphia-based artist Marlo Pascual—who deployed found images and objects in both playful and menacing theatrical displays that mix photography and sculpture—has died at age forty-eight from cancer, according to Artnews. “Beloved within the arts community, her generosity, warmth, and ingenuity defined her as an artist, professor, partner, and friend,” said Casey Kaplan, whose New York gallery has represented the artist since 2010. The artist commanded critical admiration for her elegant installations, in which she blew up and cropped amateur portraits from eBay and thrift shops and placed them in dialogue with household objects such as potted plants, candles, light fixtures, and coffee tables.

“Although Pascual’s medium is ostensibly the photograph, she wields it in the least photographic way she can,” wrote Johanna Burton in an Artforum review of her first exhibition at Casey Kaplan. “Refusing to bend either to timeworn clichés of the medium or to its most seductively complicated theorizations, Pascual instead coaxes the found images she uses into a different kind of utility, creating for her paper characters scenarios that escape equally the firmly fictional and the firmly factual.”

Born in 1972 in Nashville, Pascual studied photography at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia as a graduate student, imagining herself as following in fellow Tennessean William Eggleston’s footsteps. But she quickly grew disenchanted with the camera. “When I got there, I didn’t want to take photographs anymore,” she told W magazine in 2012. “I had to take a painting class, and the first thing I did was pour paint over a photo.” Her climb in the New York art scene—her first solo show was in 2009, at the Swiss Institute—overlapped with that of a number of Tennessee-born artists who shared an interest in conceptual photography, such as Wade Guyton, Virginia Overton, and Kelley Walker. In an Interview Q&A in 2012, Pascual acknowledged a loose affinity with these artists but distanced herself from them, noting that she was the only one who studied photography in college, a trajectory that she said shaped her art. In 2010, Pascual held her first museum solo show at the Aspen Art Museum, where she was a distinguished artist-in-residence. Her work was also included in “What Is a Photograph?,” a 2014 survey at New York’s International Center of Photography, organized by Carol Squiers.