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Philbrook acquires major Marisol work
Marisol (Venezuelan-American, 1930–2016). Magritte II, 1998. Oil, charcoal, plaster, cloth, wood, and umbrella, 67 1/2 x 41 1/2 x 32 1/2". Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Museum purchase, Taber Art Fund, 2022.1 a-e. © Marisol.



TULSA, OKLA.- Philbrook announces the new acquisition of a major work, Magritte II, by Marisol.

Once named the “Queen of Pop,” Venezuelan-American artist Marisol (born María Sol Escobar, 1930-2016) was among the most influential and compelling artists of the 20th century, creating powerful sculptures exploring relationships, contemporary culture, and her own sense of self. She used her signature materials, reclaimed wood and found items such as jewelry, shoes, or umbrellas, to create life-size sculptures exploring, honoring, and—at times—satirizing public personalities and important people in her life.

The witty, insightful, and sometimes haunting portraits of cultural figures Marisol created throughout her career included artists who were friends or influences, such as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), and Willem de Kooning (1904-1997).

In 1998, Marisol produced a series of portraits of the Belgian surrealist René Magritte (1898–1967). In each near life-size sculpture, Magritte holds an open umbrella and wears his iconic bowler hat—two recurring symbols in his own work. Shown together at a 1998 exhibition at New York’s Marlborough Gallery, Marisol’s sculptures of Magritte—all slightly different—became a gentle satire of his surrealist repetition of identical capped figures in varying poses.

Marisol’s portraits of Magritte hint at subtle connections between the artists. Both Marisol and Magritte played with reality, juxtapositions, and humor in their artwork, and these themes are fully evident in the new Philbrook acquisition, Magritte II. Marisol uses rough blocks of wood for Magritte’s body, while she delicately carves and draws the naturalistic details of his face. Then she adds an actual umbrella, composing a scene suggestive of one of Magritte’s compositions and perhaps emphasizing the question of what is “real” and what is “art.”

Most of her artist portraits, including those of Magritte, depicted artists in their old age because, she said, “In the United States there is this thing about youth, but I think old age is nice, too.” To create the appearance of age, she masterfully positioned the facial carvings so the wood grain looks like wrinkled skin. The effect resulted in remarkable likenesses with minimal interventions in the surface of the wood.

The face also plays with our concept of space—the face appears to project out but actually is carved into the block of wood. The portrait becomes inherently introspective as we look into Magritte’s face as it is being revealed to us. On the reverse of the head of Magritte II, a shadowy, three-quarter profile of another face, apparently Marisol herself, seems to emerge from the grain of the woodblock. This literal linkage she made between them may reference another reason for the deep connection she felt with him: his mother—like hers—had died by suicide when he was a child.

“This astounding sculpture by Marisol deepens our burgeoning collection of work by Latinx artists and adds dimensionality to the narrative of Pop art and 20th century avant-garde practices at Philbrook, joining work by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine de Kooning, and Morris Louis,” said Steve Heyman, Philbrook Trustee and Collections Committee Chair. “I’m thrilled to bring this important work into the collection and—speaking on behalf of all Philbrook Trustees—look forward to continuing to develop the collection in a way that affirms our commitment to being welcoming and reflective of our entire community."

In 1957, famed gallery owner Leo Castelli selected Marisol for a solo show—ahead of artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Soon after, her work was included in an exhibition at MoMA, and she became a true media and art world sensation. She was featured regularly in Time, Life, and Glamour magazines as well as in the art press. Lines into her exhibitions wrapped around the block. She was immediately recognized and mobbed by fans in public—all before anyone had heard of Andy Warhol. In the early 1960s, the two would become close friends.

Though a pop icon herself in the 1950s and ‘60s, Marisol shied away from the spotlight and eventually was overshadowed by her male counterparts. Finally, the art world is once again recognizing her work and inarguable influence. In 2014, a critically acclaimed retro-spective organized by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art cemented her place as one of the most important artists to emerge in 1960s New York. The 2021-22 exhibition Marisol and Warhol Take New York at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh reconsiders their relationship, exploring the significant influence she had on Warhol’s work and perhaps more importantly his artistic persona.

“This is an important moment to bring Marisol to Tulsa. After decades of being all but forgotten, several recent projects have rightfully reclaimed her place in history as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Both playful and emotionally moving, this iconic example of her work is destined to become a beloved work in the collection here,” said Rachel Keith, Philbrook Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs.

Behind Marisol’s stoic exterior, she had an incredible sense of humor that she described to the New York Times in 1965 as “a kind of rebellion.” In the interview, she said: “Everything was so serious. 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.”

Get happy. Visit this stunning new addition. Magritte II will be on public view starting Wednesday, February 16.










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