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Marisol

Venezuelan and American, born France, 1930

Art © Marisol Escobar/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Baby Girl, 1963

Wood and mixed media
Overall 74 x 35 x 47 inches (188 x 89 x 119.4 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1964

Marisol, born Maria Sol Escobar to Venzuelan parents in Paris, often traveled throughout Europe, Venezuela, and the United States with her family as a child. Following the untimely death of her mother in 1941 in New York, near the end of World War II at age sixteen Marisol, along with her father and brother, moved to Los Angeles, California. During this time her interest in art was ignited, and she often drew and painted throughout her teenage years. Encouraged by her father, Marisol moved to Paris in 1949 to study art at the École des Beaux-Arts, and then to New York in 1950 to pursue her desire to become a painter. That same year she began studying at the Art Students League, and later, from 1951 to 1954, she studied with the Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann. In these years she also became acquainted with the scene at New York’s Cedar Tavern, a local watering hole whose prominent patrons included Beat Generation writers and many of the leading Abstract Expressionist painters of the era—Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and, most notably, Willem de Kooning, with whom Marisol forged a close friendship. In 1953, Marisol decidedly abandoned painting to pursue an interest in sculpture. Primarily self-taught through practice and determination, she had her first exhibition in 1958 at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, which was well received.

During the 1960s, Marisol became increasingly influenced by the front-runners of the Pop art movement, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, even making appearances in two of Warhol’s movies—Kiss (1963) and 13 Most Beautiful Women (1964). Today, Marisol’s assemblage sculptures, constructed with intelligence, pathos, and, at times, humor, place her at the forefront of a small, select group of female artists who were working with a Pop sensibility during the movement's heyday. While early on she sought to align herself with the Abstract Expressionists, she found that the emotional heaviness of that movement caused her to turn to humor. She went on to develop a unique artistic vernacular comprising mixed-media sculptures, often incorporating carving, nailing, gluing, painting, drawing, plastering, and the inclusion of found objects that unexpectedly reveal themselves as self-portraits. Many of her early works are autobiographical and explore her sense of self within the context of societal and family structures.

Albright-Knox patron and former board president Seymour H. Knox, Jr., was an early supporter of Marisol’s work, and Baby Girl is the second of two major sculptures to enter the Gallery’s Collection in the early 1960s (the first was The Generals, 1961–62, purchased from Marisol’s first solo exhibition at Stable Gallery, New York, the same year the work was completed). Baby Girl soon became a visitor favorite. Like many of Marisol’s early works, it takes its cue from notions of family and childhood. Baby Girl has a presence that cannot be ignored: this larger-than-life sculpture of a baby doll stands at six feet tall, even in its seated position. Evoking the magnetic presence of a baby in the room at family gatherings and parties, the work draws the viewer’s attention into the space and towards its monstrously complacent form. Upon closer inspection, we also notice a smaller figure of an adult woman on the baby’s knee (a doll’s doll, so to speak). Marisol often signs her sculptures in unusual ways, and with elements of her own image; it is Marisol’s face we see on the small figure. Marisol also created a companion sculpture to Baby Girl—entitled Baby Boy, 1962, this standing figure holds a similar small figure in his hand that also bears the signature of Marisol’s face.

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