Buffalo AKG Art Museum Announces Marisol: A Retrospective
Monday, January 9, 2023
Today, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum announced Marisol: A Retrospective—the most significant touring retrospective to date dedicated to the art of Marisol (Venezuelan and American, born France, 1930–2016), one of the most prominent yet least well-known artists of her generation, who bequeathed her estate to the Buffalo AKG in 2016.
Organized by the Buffalo AKG and curated by Cathleen Chaffee, the museum’s Charles Balbach Chief Curator, Marisol: A Retrospective will travel to museums across North America from 2023 through 2025, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, October 7, 2023–January 21, 2024; the Toledo Museum of Art, March–June 2024; the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, July 2024–January 2025; and the Dallas Museum of Art in early- to mid- 2025. The most comprehensive exhibition of Marisol’s work ever assembled, the retrospective reckons with the entirety of the artist’s pioneering, multifaceted, nearly sixty-year career, illuminating the potency and contemporary relevance of her vast practice. Marisol’s satirical and deceptively political sculptures helped define Pop Art in the 1960s and established her as the rising woman artist of her generation. However, in the decades to follow, her work has, until now, remained largely unseen, unstudied, and unappreciated. By examining and contextualizing her work over its long arc, Marisol: A Retrospective reveals a full picture of an artist in all her complexity.
“On behalf of the Buffalo AKG and our honored role as caretakers of Marisol’s estate, it has been a tremendous privilege to shape a retrospective of her life’s work,” said Chaffee. “This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are momentous first steps in sharing the true legacy and impact of Marisol’s multi-faceted and radical practice. We are grateful to be working with such wonderful museum partners in Montreal, Toledo, and Dallas to bring this historic retrospective to communities across North America.”
In addition to select loans from private collections and institutions including the Currier Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery, the exhibition largely draws on the collection of artworks Marisol kept in her personal possession and left to the Buffalo AKG upon her death. Spanning her nearly sixty-year career, the bequest includes more than 100 sculptures and studies, including some of her best-known works, hundreds of works on paper, thousands of photographs and slides, and the artist’s papers. Due to this bequest, the Buffalo AKG now holds the world’s most significant collection of Marisol’s work. The relationship between the Buffalo AKG and Marisol began in 1962, when, with the purchase of The Generals, 1961–62, from the artist’s solo exhibition that year at the Stable Gallery, the museum became the first institution to acquire her work. The acquisition of Baby Girl, 1963, followed soon thereafter. From 1964 to 1993, Marisol was represented by the New York gallery led by Buffalo native Sidney Janis, who closely guided the artist’s career. Although Marisol left no definitive explanation for her bequest, this history seems to have inspired her decision to leave her estate to the Buffalo AKG. The bequest has positioned the museum to present a uniquely rich perspective on the art and persona of this groundbreaking, under-researched artist, and the forthcoming retrospective marks the culmination of more than six years of careful cataloging, research, study, and conservation of the artist’s estate led by Chaffee and the Buffalo AKG team.
To accompany the exhibition, the Buffalo AKG and DelMonico Books will copublish the most comprehensive catalogue yet dedicated to Marisol, which will include new essays by Chaffee and host curators including: Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Dallas Museum of Art; Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; and Jessica Hong, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Toledo Museum of Art. The book will feature additional essays by Estrellita Brodsky, Alex Da Corte, Delia Solomons, and Julia Vázquez, and contributions by Jason Hose. These scholarly explorations will be presented alongside full-color reproductions of the works featured in the retrospective, a robust bibliography, an exhibition history, and an illustrated chronology.
Due to the general lack of critical attention to Marisol’s work beginning in the 1970s, a major portion of the artist’s creative achievement has remained largely unknown to the public and scholars alike, including her extraordinarily varied drawing practice, her engagement with the worlds of performance art and dance, and her work in public art and memorials. This exhibition strives to correct this historical neglect. In addition to a chronological and thematic survey of many of her best-known sculptures, the exhibition includes examples of her drawings from the beginning to the end of her career; representations of her public sculptures and monuments; her costumes and sets for renowned dance companies; documentation of her works’ source material; and photographic and video records of her multidisciplinary collaborations. Acknowledging that much of Marisol’s reception through the decades has been mediated through the images created of her in the popular media, the exhibition also includes a concise selection of photographic portraits, press, and ephemera.
By presenting the full scope of Marisol’s artistic practice, the exhibition contends that the elements of her later-twentieth-century practice that largely failed to resonate with critics in their time are those that engage with concerns that are particularly relevant today. Those periods saw Marisol creating works that embody animal intelligence and allude to environmental precarity, express feminist anger and testify to sexual violence, engage with the immigrant experience, figure post-colonial disenfranchisement, and destabilize norms of gender and sexuality, among others. The boldness of her work infuses these lesser-known aspects of her art with force and relevance, revealing not only an artist who was radical in her own time, but also a body of work that speaks to the urgent issues of today.
Encompassing nearly 150 objects in addition to ephemera, the exhibition will unfold over roughly 9,500 square feet, with materials grouped into six thematic sections tracing Marisol’s career as it developed from the 1950s to the early 2000s. The exhibition begins with Marisol’s emergence in the 1950s—her first forays into sculpture and her largely never-before-seen body of works on paper from that period. From the 1960s, the show will include a selection of the Pop sculptures that made Marisol a mid-century celebrity, culminating in the artist’s masterpiece of this period, The Party, 1965–66, which thematizes womanhood in 1960s New York society. In a rare reunion since their debut at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1964, the retrospective will reunite the Buffalo AKG’s sculpture Baby Girl, 1963, and the privately held Baby Boy, 1962–63—two of Marisol’s most iconic works from this period that provocatively address Cold War concerns alongside the pressures of femininity and motherhood.
Subsequent sections of the exhibition deliberately problematize the conception of the artist as a 1960s siren that defined her for the rest of her life, shedding light on her artistic engagement with issues of ecology, anti-war movements, second-wave feminism, global inequities, and racial and ethnic disenfranchisement. Sculptural works such as Triggerfish II, 1972; Needlefish III, 1973; and Fish Man, 1973—representations of barracuda and needlefish that bear a striking resemblance to missiles and other forms of weaponry—reveal Marisol’s engagement with the natural world as well as global political events like the Vietnam War; while large-scale drawings with confrontational titles such as I Hate You Creep and Your Fetus, 1973, harness second-wave feminist anger. Works such as Boy with an Empty Bowl, 1987, created for a landmark traveling exhibition that sought to end world hunger, and Woman with Child and Two Lambs, 1995, recast a longstanding motif of her career, that of the mother and child, within a broader sociopolitical context, demonstrating Marisol’s ongoing engagement with the politics of her time.
Areas of Marisol’s practice that have thus far evaded public presentation and appreciation—primarily her collaborative work with dance companies and her public sculpture, important spheres of activity from the 1970s onward—will at last receive their proper due. Marisol created sets and costumes for some of the most prominent dance companies of the later twentieth century, including the Louis Falco Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Ephemera, photography, and video documentation related to these collaborations will be publicly exhibited for the first time. Marisol’s extensive public sculptures dedicated to subjects as wide-ranging as Hawaii’s Father Damien, 1969, and Manhattan’s American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, 1988, will be presented in a gallery space for the first time—represented through preparatory sketches, maquettes, research documents, and source photographs of the figures memorialized in her monuments.
Far more than a muse or an icon of a single decade, Marisol created art that addressed and interrogated challenging and urgent issues of the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries in radical ways. Through its presentation of not only the artist’s six decades of work realized across media, but also previously unseen archival material and ephemera, Marisol: A Retrospective offers an extraordinary experience of the breadth of her groundbreaking practice, her complex subjectivity, as well as her powerful creative agency.
Marisol: A Retrospective is organized by the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and curated by Cathleen Chaffee, Charles Balbach Chief Curator. The exhibition is supported by a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Critical work related to this exhibition and collection was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About the Buffalo AKG Art Museum
Founded in 1862, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) is the sixth-oldest public art institution in the United States. For 160 years, the Buffalo AKG has collected, conserved, and exhibited the art of its time, often working directly with living artists. This tradition has given rise to one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of modern and contemporary art. The museum’s collections span some of the greatest moments in art through the centuries, beginning with Marina Piccola, Capri, 1859, by Albert Bierstadt—both the first painting and the first work gifted by an artist to enter the museum’s collection—and is especially rich in postwar American and European art. On May 25, 2023, the Buffalo AKG will open a renewed and vastly expanded campus designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu.
About the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Founded in 1860, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is the oldest art museum in Canada and a leading museum in North America. Its collection showcases Quebec and Canadian heritage and international art from a critical and intercultural perspective, and comprises more than 45,000 paintings, sculptures, graphic art works, photographs, multimedia installations and decorative art objects dating from antiquity to the present. The MMFA’s exhibitions span every discipline from archaeology to fine arts, to contemporary practices. Laid out over five interconnecting pavilions, the Museum complex includes more than eighty exhibition galleries, the Bourgie concert hall, an auditorium and movie theatre, the Boutique and Bookstore, an in-house publishing department, a public sculpture garden and the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy. A pioneering museum in the provision of art therapy, the MMFA works with the community, education, health, and technology sectors to give all people exposure to art through inclusive and enriching experiences. Mbam.qc.ca
About the Toledo Museum of Art
Since its founding in 1901, the Toledo Museum of Art has earned a global reputation for the quality of its collections, innovative and extensive education programs, and architecturally significant campus. Thanks to the benevolence of its founders, as well as the continued support of its members, TMA remains a privately endowed, non-profit institution and opens its collection to the public, free of charge. The Museum seeks to become the model art museum in the country, leading the way in genuinely and creatively engaging its communities and fostering a sense of belonging for all its audiences.
The Museum is located in Toledo, Ohio, at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue, just west of the downtown business district and one block off I-75, with exit designations posted. For general information, visitors can call 419-255-8000 or 800-644-6862 or visit toledomuseum.org.
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the ten largest art museums in the country. With a free general admission policy and community outreach efforts, the DMA is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. The DMA is an Open Access institution, allowing all works believed to be in the public domain to be freely available for downloading, sharing, repurposing, and remixing without restriction. For more information, visit dma.org.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture.