Opening the exhibition are four rarely seen silent 16 mm films Warhol made of Marisol in 1963. In Marisol – Stop Motion, the artist is in her studio interacting with her work, including John Wayne (1963), a witty sculpture of the iconic Western actor straddling a red horse while wielding a pistol, which appears later on in the PAMM show. In another film, this one in dreamy color, Marisol and several artist friends, including Robert Indiana and John Giorno, frolic around a summer home in Connecticut, a rare, tender glimpse into their otherwise city-slick lives. Warhol’s Screen Test with Marisol is also on display, evidencing Marisol’s poise and diligence as she sits still for four minutes and 30 seconds, staring straight into the camera.
“You get to know her through the eyes of Warhol, quite literally,” says Franklin Sirmans, PAMM’s director, who organized the Miami show with assistant curator Maritza Lacayo. Sirmans and Lacayo both emphasize the importance of placing this show in the context of Miami, with its Latino (and specifically Venezuelan) population. In many ways, “she is the familiar face, the exciting one” to their audience, says Sirmans.
From the silent Warhol films, the show moves loosely chronologically. The pairing of Warhol and Marisol emphasizes not the overlap in their aesthetics—they are very different artists—but more how they saw the world, and each other. Marisol represented everything Warhol, born in Pittsburgh to working-class immigrant parents, prized: She was cosmopolitan, born in Paris to wealthy Venezuelans and raised between the French capital and Caracas; she was successful, having showed in numerous museums and galleries, including the influential Leo Castelli Gallery alongside rising stars Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg in 1957, the same year as her first solo show, and at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1961; and she was gorgeous, with glossy black hair, wide eyes, and high cheekbones. She developed a persona as the coy beauty, appearing in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Life but revealing very few personal details. But timid she was not: She once ripped Frank O’Hara’s shirt off out of fury at a party.
“That kind of cool, mysterious thing Warhol had, he was emulating her. She was the It girl,” says Lacayo. It took Warhol more than a decade after moving to New York, in 1949, to transition out of his work as a commercial illustrator into the glitzy gallery scene he so admired. (A New York Times story titled “The In Crowd and the Out Crowd” from July 1965 called Marisol “in” and Warhol “out.”)