From 1951-1954 Marisol lived in New York and took courses at the New School for Social Research, studying under her most influential mentor, the "dean of Abstract Expressionism," Hans Hofmann. Born of Parisian and Venezuelan lineage, the young artist spent time at the infamous Cedar Tavern and befriended some of the "Gods" of the movement, particularly Willem de Kooning. Upon her discovery of Pre-Columbian and Mexican artifacts she decided to give up painting and focus on sculpture, using terracotta and wood, abandoning her painting lessons for clay workshops at the Brooklyn Museum. Marisol developed a unique approach for combining painting, drawing, stenciling, casting and carving with ready-made objects to produce totemic personnages that feel at once ancient and completely modern. Her first show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958 was met with great success, though Marisol had her doubts about her self and her place in the New York art world.
In the present wall relief a group of figures composed of carved and painted stand side by side saluting the viewer. Titled The Spectators, this piece could be viewed as a projection of the artist's own feelings about watching and being watched in the very public art scene during the late 1950s. Beyond the personal allegory, the group feels to be one organism, individuals related to one another in common solidarity--like a group of immigrants or refugees. The artist, in a message to the present owner writes from Rome:
I am glad that you like The Spectators so much. I worked very hard on it and thought it was one of the best things I've done. In a way it was my goodbye to America, that is why I put that little flag on one of the people (Letter from Marisol to the present owner, February 27, 1959).