Marisol in Manchester

Manchester, New Hampshire’s Currier Museum is home to Marisol Escobar’s masterpiece, “Family” (1963). This iconic pop sculpture was featured (apparently un-ironically) on the cover of Time Magazine in December, 1970 as part of a feature on the crisis of the American family. Like much of Marisol’s best-known work, this group of life size figures is assembled from carved wood, cast plaster, cloth, and painted and collaged decoration with an enormous baby carriage-as-found-object. But the babies themselves are adults—or pieces of them—and the two girl children who walk gravely on either side of their grinning mother are suspiciously grown up. The parents are preposterous concoctions of self-absorption and alienation, dressed expensively in the latest fashions.

The family appears benign and colorful at first glance, but eventually the agglomeration of mismatched parts that makes up each figure becomes unsettling.  The two babies are composed of segments of adult faces and bony adult feet, cast from life and applied to the enormous hulk of the black carriage. One of the girl children has three legs, and carries a cloth doll whose face is a sketched self-portrait of the sculptor. The mother’s eyes are covered by a large hat, her life-cast mouth a rictus of delight, or hysteria. The father, immaculate in a brocade jacket, is entombed in a wooden frame, detached from the family parade. Marisol’s sophisticated color palette enhances her skillful vocabulary of drawn, painted, and lightly carved surface pattern, which in turn masterfully accentuates various aspects of the group.

Marisol has been called a surrealist, perhaps for lack of a better word to describe her witty assemblages of carved wood, drawing, painting, casts, and found objects. Her satire, always acute, attained a razor’s edge in this parody of American life in the plastic-fantastic decade.

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