Marisol (Marisol Escobar, American, b. France, 1930–2016) may have been “written out of history,” to quote this extraordinary artist’s obituary in the New York Times, but in Chicago she was never forgotten. Marisol holds a unique position in the MCA’s history: her gift of the wood and Formica Six Women (1965–66), featuring her own face on several of the figures, inaugurated the museum’s permanent collection. Since then we have included her work in numerous exhibitions including 2015’s MCA DNA: Warhol and Marisol which illuminated her friendship with Andy Warhol and featured her three-dimensional portrait of the Pop master.
In the 1950s Marisol had been associated with Surrealism—her Printer's Box from 1956 is currently on view in Surrealism: The Conjured Life. In the 1960s, she turned to innovative, bold depictions of family groups, women, and notables such as the Kennedys and was associated with Pop Art. Works like these gained attention in Chicago, where they were acquired by Pop Art collectors including MCA Life Trustee Buddy Mayer and Robert B. Mayer; Surrealist collectors Ruth and Leonard Horwich, Edwin and Lindy Bergman; and MCA founding President Joseph Shapiro and Jory Shapiro.
In 1968, Marisol decided to close her studio and travel the world. Six Women, however, was still in her possession; she had done minor repairs on it following a popular showing at her New York gallery, Sidney Janis. She contacted Joseph Shapiro and announced her intention to give the work to the museum founded by her Chicago collectors a year prior. Even though the MCA had not yet formally established a collection, the gift was gladly accepted!
—Lynne Warren, Curator at MCA Chicago