Marisol: A Retrospective opens at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

FRAME is delighted to provide support for the exhibition catalogue for Marisol: A Retrospective, on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through January 21, 2024. Organized by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and drawn largely on the collection of artworks Marisol kept in her personal possession and left to the Buffalo AKG upon her death, in a historic and transformative bequest, this major touring show devoted to Marisol (Venezuelan and American, born in France, 1930–2016), offers a comprehensive survey of her vast practice, spanning nearly sixty years. Although her singular sculptures were associated with the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and although she had been lauded as the female artist of her generation, Marisol’s work remains little known today. By examining and contextualizing her work over its long arc, this retrospective is an opportunity to appreciate a full picture of this iconic artist in all her complexity.

Marisol: A Retrospective brings together more than 250 works and documents attesting to the richness of this artist’s unique journey over the decades. Among the works on view are her remarkable life-size totemic figures made from mixed media assemblages combining wood, drawing, painting and found objects in a style that is sometimes satirical, often subversive and always radical. Many of her sculptures address or challenge the role of women in society. Until her death in 2016, Marisol continued to sculpt while working with other techniques, such as drawing, printmaking and photography. She also designed sets and costumes for dance companies in addition to creating sculptural portraits and public monuments. Her work explores themes close to the artist’s heart, from the realities of women and immigrants to social justice, animal intelligence and the fragility of our planet. This exhibition provides a vibrant reminder of the potency and contemporary relevance of Marisol’s vast practice.

“On behalf of the Buffalo AKG and our honoured role as caretakers of Marisol’s estate, it has been a tremendous privilege to shape a retrospective of her life’s work. This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are momentous steps in sharing the true legacy and impact of Marisol’s multi-faceted and radical practice,” says Cathleen Chaffee, Charles Balbach Chief Curator of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and curator of Marisol: A Retrospective. “The most comprehensive retrospective ever dedicated to Marisol, this exhibition offers an exciting opportunity to rediscover a visionary artist with singular creative power. An icon of her era, Marisol created art that continues to resonate through its engagement with complex issues related to gender, the environment and social inequality that are pertinent to this day,” explains Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator of the MMFA and curator of the Montreal presentation of the exhibition.

Organized both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition begins with Marisol’s emergence as an artist in the 1950s and her early work in sculpture, in addition to a number of previously unpublished drawings. The retrospective then sheds light on her work from the
1960s, when her totemic portraits associated with Pop Art established her as a major artistic figure of her generation. She practiced self-portraiture by incorporating casts of her face, mouth, hands and other body parts into her sculptures. The iconic works from this period include her masterpiece The Party (1965-1966), an assemblage of 15 life-size, free-standing figures, all bearing Marisol’s facial features. Also on display are Baby Girl (1963) and Baby Boy (1962-1963), two sculptures that provocatively address Cold War concerns and the pressures of femininity and motherhood.

From the 1970s on, the artist’s work is marked by her commitment to issues such as environmental precarity, social justice, feminism and war. While Marisol’s work may not have found wide critical success at the time, it speaks to several of the most pressing issues of today.

Moreover, an extensive installation of the artist’s figurative drawings from the 1970s points to the relationship between her sculptural self-portraits and these almost confessional works, suggesting new biographical as well as feminist approaches to Marisol’s positioning and self-
presentation. Subsequent sections of the exhibition present documentation of costumes and sets designed by Marisol for some of the leading dance companies of the late 20th century, including the Louis Falco Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company.
In addition to drawing extensively on the Buffalo AKG’s collection of works by Marisol, personally bequeathed to the museum upon her death, the retrospective also features loans of major works from renowned institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

After its presentation in Montreal, Marisol: A Retrospective will travel to the Toledo Museum of Art (March to June 2024), the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (July 2024 to January 2025), and the Dallas Museum of Art (February to July 2025).

Marisol: A Retrospective is listed as a must-see exhibit by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Learn more.

Marisol (1930-2016), Women and Dog, 1963-1964. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 64.17a-i. © Estate of Marisol / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY