Philbrook Museum buys sculpture from almost forgotten female artist
The afterlife takes on new meaning in the art world when painters and sculptors are recognized only after death. It took two decades for Van Gogh to be recognized and Vermeer two centuries.
A recent example is Carmen Herrera, painter of sharp geometric abstractions. She died this month aged 106 and only made her first sale aged 89. Laura Cummingart critic for the London Observer saw his work for the first time and wondered, “How could we miss these brilliant compositions?
What took so long?
Could the answer be that women haven’t been the arbiters of taste in the past?
I’m thinking of another story this month on the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, purchase of a wooden sculpture by a pop artist marisol escobar entitled “Magritte II”. (More on this work in a moment).
Tulsa World quoted the assistant director of the Philbrook Museum Rachel Keith saying the purchase is a signature work by “the most important pop artist you’ve never heard of”. Presumably, she’s referring to the fact that Marisol, who rose to prominence in the early 1960s, was all but forgotten by the time of her death in 2016 at the age of 85.
Philbrook MuseumThe purchase of is part of a series of Marisol’s René Magritte, who, like her, played with reality with humor. The umbrella in the work is one of the iconic parts of Magritte’s image.
Corn Marisol superimposed the sculpture with something else – the question of ageing. Everyday art quoted her saying, “In the United States there’s this thing about youth, but I think old age is nice too.” She was 68 when she made “Magritte II”, ostensibly using wood grain for the surrealist’s facial wrinkles.
Lock her up
While Marisol described other men than Magritte as John Wayne and Andy Warholfemale figures dominated his work.
And, invariably, she represented them in wooden blocks to appear in prison. It was her take on what she saw as the stuffy roles that women traditionally play.
“The women and the dog“, for example, shows three women, a little girl and a dog, each standing to attention like show dogs. Showing women in circumscribed lives included the sculptor himself.
“Self-portrait” describes seven heads with different hairstyles on bodies enclosed in palisade-like blocks.
This range of different Marisols was her way of exploring feminine identity. The history of art Nancy Heller quotes her in the 1987 book “Women Artists” saying, “There comes a time when you start asking, ‘Who am I?’ I tried to discover it through my sculpture.
The fact that Marisol created chilling images of herself comes from her view that female artists are not considered as highly as male artists: “Much of the work of women throughout history has been relegated to decorating and folk arts, and the latter is less important. It’s as if the fine arts were essentially Western masculine.
Perhaps with museum directors like Rachel Keith and art critics like Laura Cumming, artists like Carmen Herrera and Marisol Escobar won’t need to be dead to gain recognition.
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