In 1950, Marisol moved to New York to pursue her desire to become a painter, and there she got to know many of the leading Abstract Expressionist artists of the day. During the 1960s, she became increasingly influenced by the frontrunners of the Pop art movement, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, and even appeared in two of Warhol’s movies. 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. Her unique mixed-media sculptures—the result of carving, nailing, gluing, painting, drawing, plastering, and the incorporation of found objects—often unexpectedly reveal themselves to be self-portraits. Many of her early works are autobiographical and explore her sense of self within the context of societal and family structures.
The Generals features nearly life-size sculptural caricatures of George Washington and the Venezuelan military and political leader Simón Bolívar sitting on a toy horse. Some areas, such as the face of the Bolívar figure, are meticulously rendered, while others are intentionally left seemingly unfinished. The hands of both figures are casts of Marisol's own, giving the sculpture an eerily realistic layer. When the work was first exhibited at the Albright-Knox soon after its acquisition in 1962, a recording of a march entitled “Koronal Kreplach” by the American composer David Amram, a friend of the artist, emanated from the body of the horse. Amram had originally written the score for a Broadway play called The Rivalry, but when Marisol heard it and walked around the sculpture, she found the combination amusing and decided to incorporate it into her work. Because the original recording was on a reel-to-reel tape, the audio component for The Generals has not been exhibited as part of the work in more than twenty years. Recent media conservation efforts now allow The Generals to be experienced as the artist originally conceived it.
Label from Sweet Dreams, Baby! Life of Pop, London to Warhol, May 31–September 8, 2013