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When Andy Met Marisol

Who could match Andy Warhol’s enigmatic appeal as the arbiter of downtown cool? According to David Colman of the New York Times“If ever there was anyone who could out Warhol- Andy Warhol, it [was] Marisol Escobar.”

Escobar appeared in two of Warhol’s earliest films: The 13 Most Beautiful Girls and The Kiss.  Like Andy’s other singly-named muses –Jackie, Liz, and Marilyn– Marisol was a fixture on the lively New York art scene. Warhol described her as “the first girl artist with glamour.” But she was more than just a pretty face.

Marisol first experienced success as an Abstract Expressionist painter studying under Hans Hoffman, having her first solo exhibition in 1958 at the Leo Castelli Gallery. During this time she hung out with the likes of Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning.  Recalling an art scene dominated by abstraction in POPism: The Warhol Sixties, Andy writes:

“The resentment against Pop artists was something fierce, and it wasn’t coming from just art critics or buyers, it was coming from a lot of the older Abstract Expressionist painters themselves. The attitude was brought home to me in a very dramatic way at a party given by an Abstract Expressionist painter, Yvonne Thomas… Marisol had been invited, and she took Bob Indiana and me with her… When we walked into that room, I looked around and saw that it was chock full of anguished, heavy intellects. Suddenly the noise level dropped and everyone turned to look at us. (It was like the moment when the little girl in The Exorcist walks into her mother’s party and pees on the rug.) I saw Mark Rothko take the hostess aside and I heard him accuse her of treachery: ‘How could you let them in?’ She apologized. ‘But what can I do?’ she told Rothko. ‘They came with Marisol.'”

In an exhibition currently on view until June 15, 2014, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, you can see side-by-side works by the two artists that explore their friendship at a time when both were still in the early stages of their careers. In her work, Marisol turns away from the solemnity of Abstract Expressionism to humor, which she injects in her now signature sculptures—life size wooden assemblages carved and plaster-cast repeatedly with her face in Self Portrait.  “It started as a kind of rebellion. Everything was so serious,” the artist said in a 1965 interview with the New York Times. “I was very sad myself and the people I met were so depressing. I started doing something funny so that I would become happier — and it worked.”

Andy, for his part, used modes of repetition that helped define the Pop movement, such as a row of eight Jackie Kennedys in a piece entitled, Jackie Frieze. He said, “The Pop artists did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second—comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, coke bottles—all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.”

MCA DNA: Warhol and Marisol 
Sep 21, 2013–Jun 15, 2014

(Article by Christine Villanueva; Image: Marisol Escobar
 (b. 1930), “Andy”, graphite, oil and plaster on wood with Andy Warhol’s shoes 56½ x 17¼ x 22½ in. Executed in 1962-1963.)