The Perez Art Miami Museum… Getting To Know Two Latino Pioneer Artists
It’s been several years since I visited the Perez Art Miami Museum (PAMM) and on my recent trip to this amazing city, I stopped by to reconnect. This is truly a unique institution with a mission of serving international contemporary modern artists of the 20th and 21st centuries committed to advancing a more inclusive, humane society. The museum is constructed on a 20-acre museum park on the Biscayne Bay surrounded by spectacular views of skyscrapers on one side and the ocean on the opposite side. Once inside this uniquely designed building I was able to view several new exhibitions, of which two caught my attention. Both are by deceased Latino artists who are not as well known yet have made significant contributions to the art world. The following is a little about Marisol Escobar and Carlos Cruz-Diez — — both pioneers in the Pop Art and Optical Art movements.
Marisol and Warhol Take New York Exhibition
Marisol (Maria Sol Escobar) born in Paris in 1930, is of Venezuelan wealth having studied in art schools both in Paris and the US. She is one of the very few women (who happened to be Latina) associated with the Pop Art movement dominated then by Andy Warhol and his white male counterparts. This particular exhibition highlights her artistic collaboration with Warhol in the early 1960s during the emergence of Pop Art at a time when women artists were invisible. Her unique sculpture works are larger-than-life three-dimensional portraits of mostly men and women influenced by her pre- Colombian heritage, a mix of both folk art and pop art. I would have liked the exhibition to be less about Warhol whose artwork we have seen a million times and was a bit saturated and humdrum for this show.
I was pleased to experience “The Party”, one of Marisol’s most well-known and celebrated large-scale installations consisting of 15 figures, both powerful and theatrical. What I don’t understand is why the curators were compelled to exhibit it using Warhol’s pink cow wallpaper as a backdrop. There are much better options for linking the collaborative nature of these two artists without overshadowing the work of one of them. Many of her colorful portrait sculpture pieces portrayed family life, social norms and celebrities, including portraits of herself and Warhol. I especially liked the whimsical effect applied in the assembling of her sculptures by adding mundane conventional items such as jewelry, pocketbooks, hats and photos… allowing the portraits to be more relatable.
Marisol was able to exhibit widely within the New York art scene and internationally, regardless of the media’s perception of her as a glamour girl. Overtime she abandoned the pop art movement and return to Paris where she continue her artistry and died in 2016. I would like to have learned more about her life and work and was quite disappointed that the museum only had one book commissioned for the show that featured her work along with Warhol (of course). Not surprisingly, the museum had plenty of Warhol books and novelty items.
The show honestly missed the opportunity to present a powerful message on the inequities of female minority artists by not giving more attention to Marisol as a forgotten pop art contributor than a simple collaboration with Mr. Warhol. Need I say more…
Similar to Marisol, Carlos is a Venezuelan artist having lived and died in Paris and a major contributor to an art movement known as the Optical and Kinetic Art Movement (Op Art). As an artist and color theorist, Carlos was enamored with the contrasting of color and light as an art form. His experimentation with colored light and lines has led him to creating large scale public installations throughout the world such as Chromosaturation.
Chromosaturation, acquired by the museum, is a large installation of three chambers flushed with different color lights against a white interior that immediately saturates your retina. As you walk your way through these three connected chambers, the colors change, creating a sense of movement, a bit eerie, as if you were stuck in space. The color combinations are quite intense as they bounce off the walls and you feel you are in a virtual reality space. You are totally immersed in the interplay of lights and colors as you walk from one chamber to the other. The overload on your sensory allows you to be an engaged participant in the art than just viewing it. The beauty of it is undeniable, and I loved every minute of it.
Most likely the beginnings of the new Metaverse era of digital change, where color and light play a big part. Carlos refers to it as “an awareness of the instability of reality” pushing the boundaries of what art can be. No doubt, a pioneer of what the Optical Art movement is all about, having left a body of work that will definitely produce futuristic art forms by a new generation of artists.
I very much enjoyed learning about two outstanding pioneers in the development of alternative forms of art during the early 60s. It’s important to note that these two artists are part of a larger number of (slightly unknown) Latino artists who have significantly contributed to the art world during a time where being Latin or a woman was a handicap that they had to overcome in presenting their vision. This was truer of Marisol than Carlos. What makes them even more unique is that neither relied on one country to thrive, both positioned themselves as international artists.
The photos are of both exhibitions. To access the photos click here. Remember to click the center of the photo for a full view.
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