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Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Self-portrait Looking at the Last Supper, 1982-84, Marisol Escobar

Self-portrait with Sculpture,
1965, Marisol Escobar
It always seems a little pretentious to me when an artist insists upon being known only by his or her first name. In the entertainment industry the list is quite lengthy. In art, less so, but even Picasso wasn't simply "Pablo." I'll give a pass on this front to Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Raphael--they each earned the right to "first name only" status in art history. However the same can't be said for more recent artists such as Christo Javacheff or Marisol Escobar, among others. Name recognition aside, it's always a delight to realize an important artist has heretofore somehow escaped my list of notables, allowing me to continue this literary exercise at least one more day. Marisol Escobar is one such case.

If her name doesn't quite "ring a bell," it's because Marisol had her moments of fame starting back in the 1960s with the beginning of the Pop movement where her boxy carved and painted wooden figures served to greatly expand our definition of figural sculpture. Her mixed-media installations were as startling as they were intriguing. Born in France in 1930 of jet-setting Venezuelan parents, this artist is no "flash in the pan." Today, at the age of 83, she is in good health continuing to live and work in the Tribeca section of New York City on various media-mixing sculptural projects.
John Wayne, 1963, Marisol Escobar
Something of an introverted, strangely religious teenager, Marisol grew up in California where her parents moved after the war. Her life size Self-portrait Looking at the Last Supper (top) pays homage to her favorite artist as a child. Her mother, who died during Marisol's teen years, was a patron of the arts while her oil-rich father encouraged her greatly in her studies, first in Paris, then with abstract expressionist, Hans Hoffman in New York. There, she hobnobbed with the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willelm de Kooning at their favorite watering hole, the Cedar Tavern. Her stunning good looks made her immensely popular with this first generation of abstractionists. Yet, despite her early association with painters, Marisol decided in the early 1950s to give up painting in favor of sculpture.
A Stroll Down Peachtree Street, 1997, Marisol Escobar. Mixing media-- 
acrylic and charcoal on plywood, wood, marble, and plaster
Thus, with the dawn of the '60s, she joined the likes of Warhol and Lichtenstein, cutting, carving, drawing, and painting portraits of both the known and the unknown, her trademark being pine plywood and the conflicting tension between the finished and unfinished states. Beyond this, her groupings explored insightful social observations depicting single mothers, family groupings, even dysfunctional families, such as the Rhett Butlers in A Stroll down Peachtree Street (above). Her most recent pieces are similar to those of the past except that age has forced her to work on a smaller scale.

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