Back in December, when I was still just thinking about starting up this blog, a friend tentatively asked me if I was “one of those” people who interpret all art as something sexual. I am not. If you look back at my post on Klimt’s naked ladies swimming together, my take on it was far less pornographic than it could have been.
But here, with Marisol’s Love—I gotta say I see more than just an enthusiastic soda drinker. (Mom, Dad, you have my permission to skip this one if you like.)
Simple, really. Just a person drinking coke. Right? Well… look at that angle. The bottle is perpendicular to the mouth—a right angle. Not the angle I usually drink my sodas from. And uh, did you notice how much of the bottle is in that mouth? Darn near 1/3. The mouth is open really wide, with the bottle shoved in deep.
The coke bottle is, well, a glossy, curvaceous, nearly full green glass coke bottle. There might be a chip out of the bottom—it is hard to tell. It says on the side, in raised cursive lettering, “Coca-Cola”. The real deal. The original.
The face looks like it is made of sidewalk concrete or the ceramic used for flower pots. It seems earthy, like terracotta warmed by the sun. It has little holes and scratches and a matte surface texture. It would absorb heat, moisture. We don’t get to see the eyes. The eyes might tell us a bit more about how the person feels about this bottle. The eyes might let us know if this is consensual. Without them, it feels forced.
The artist was friends with Andy Warhol. She does have a last name, Escobar, but the glamorous female painter and sculptor was known in her heyday simply as Marisol. Some critics include her in the Pop art movement, alongside Warhol’s cans of Campbell’s soup and Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots. Others find Marisol’s work inconsistent with Pop, despite using references to popular culture in her work.
I first ran across this image of “Love” in a book meant to accompany an exhibition of MoMA’s collection of Latin American and Caribbean Art at El Museo del Barrio in New York. In this context, I immediately saw Coca-Cola, that great North American commercial icon, metaphorically forcing itself on warm, traditional people of Central and South America. I took the title not as descriptive, but as irony—the earthy face submitting to the powerful coke. Perhaps the face would like to slowly sip soda, but that wasn’t permitted. No, the face had to take in enough to make a person gag.
I happen to like Coke way better than Pepsi, but I also like the grocery store HEB’s generic brand cola. It is my go-to, in the tiny cans. One per afternoon. I wouldn’t want to drink my coke like this sculpture, though. I wouldn’t want to be force-fed coke. If I were to make art showing how much I loved coke, it wouldn’t look like this.
I was hesitant to write about this sculpture because of the sexual connotations, but the power play I saw as I looked at the image made me want to. For me, Marisol sculpted a face, and gave it a bottle of coke to drink. And instead of that simple combination saying, “Hey! I love drinking coke!” it said “See how commercialism is forced upon us? How we can’t help but submit?” I don’t know Marisol’s intention with this artwork, but part of why she isn’t always neatly classified as a Pop artist is because her work doesn’t glorify mass consumerism. It subtly shows that things might not be great just because they are popular.
When Warhol used Coca-Cola in his work, it had a decidedly less conflicted tone:
For me, what Marisol does with a coke bottle seems, well, deeper. On several levels. Does this seem like “love” to you?
This page has very good information about Marisol, her work over time, and how she does and doesn’t fit in the Pop Art movement.
Walter Sanders—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Marisol Escobar, 1957. Read more: Marisol Escobar 1957 | LIFE.com http://life.time.com/art-artists/artists-photos-of-essential-painters-and-sculptors/attachment/14_00931672/#ixzz31W3q1F3L
Basilio, Miriam, et al. Latin American and Caribbean Art: MoMA at El Museo. New York: El Museo del Barrio and The Museum of Modern Art, 2004. Print.