The Venezuelan American sculptor Marisol shot to art-world stardom in the 1960s, starring in four of Andy Warhol’s early films. But as she began exploring ecological and feminist themes across different media in the 1970s, her work was dismissed as folk art, and the artist who once represented Venezuela at the 1968 Venice Biennale fell into relative obscurity. An upcoming exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, “Marisol: A Retrospective,” offers a correction. The fruit of a major bequest to the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (the artist left the entirety of her works in her personal collection to the institution), the exhibit will travel to several museums across North America and includes over 250 pieces ranging from sketches and costume design to her later work with large-scale public sculpture. Cathleen Chaffee, the chief curator of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and the curator of the retrospective, notes that there’s an openness in Marisol’s work that invites audience engagement: “It’s uncanny how Marisol doesn’t finish her sculptures — she leaves part of them raw, which means there’s always [room] for the viewer to participate.” The artist’s striking wooden sculptures remain the star of the show. One highlight, “Dinner Date” (1963), is full of cheeky details, including colourful TV dinners and variations on a familiar figure: “Even in a portrait of someone else, Marisol is always using her own body as a means of identifying with her subjects,” says Mary-Dailey Desmarais, the chief curator of the MMFA. It’s an impulse that extends underwater, with the artist’s oceanic fascination represented by “Barracuda” (1971), a sleek, surreal 11-foot-long fish, finished with the artist’s pouting face in plastic.
“Marisol: A Retrospective” will be on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from Oct. 7 through Jan. 21, 2024, mbam.qc.ca.