New York


Sidney Janis Gallery

In a sense Marisol resembles Acconci in her exposure of private secrets in public. But her revelation-exploration of self centers around a more traditional notion of personal fantasy rooted in the Surrealist world of dream imagery and symbolic content. She is less the performer, more the shaman. Her ceramic masks, for example, are less those of persona, more archetypal emblems, ceremonial faces for a mysterious female rite. Ear Earrings. Flesh-colored clay baked into the oval of a gazing visage. The earlobes hanging like jewelry from the sides. And stringing, weighted below, a necklace, two breasts and the circle of belly with navel. Veil. The countenance projecting out from a mounded terra-cotta headdress, hidden behind the bundles of wig-hair which stem from its surface. And on the sides, haloing the face, etched in the clay, the biographical statistics (my family is from New York, my name is Marisol). The mask as sarcophagus, entombing the vestiges of identity. Other works employ relics of culture—Coke bottles, beer cans, keys—dangling like chains or impressed in the clay disfiguring the physiognomy. It seems a blatant symbolism. Woman imprisoned, tied, abused. And are the masks then a form of exorcism? Or are they, more simply, a concept of primitivism used to energize contemporary concerns?

But perhaps I should cite Marisol's drawings, which dominate her show. Here the style is more obviously mannered. Swirling bands of brightly hued crayon and pencil lines against black paper manufacture the eeriness of psychedelic glow. Images of guns exploding, fingers lipsticked into phalluses, hands pressing against flesh, a mouth opening into vagina, all stipulate a nightmare of sex and violence. The technique, the notations, seem conventionalized. Not so much a sharing of personal visions. More the fashioning of the trappings of idiosyncratic imagination to simulate a private narrative. And what is implied as a magic, a primal power intensely felt, is rendered eclectic by the knowingness of its presentation.

Susan Heinemann