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 Rosalyn Drexler  (1926 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey      Known for: pop art collage and figure painting, writing

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
The Connoisseur, 1963
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A sculptor, collage artist, and also a novelist using the name Julia Sorel, Rosalyn Drexler became a highly influential female Pop Artist at a time when that style was dominated by males.  She was raised in New York City, and at age 19 married Sherman Drexler, an artist, who got her into visiting museums.  They moved to Berkeley, where she started sculpting from found materials.  In New York City, she later was able to exhibit from this period 84 pieces from abstract to figurative styles.

Subsequently, using clippings from magazines, painting over and around them, and then enlarging with photography, she did the Pop Art photo collages for which she became best known.  She exhibited with leading Pop Artists including Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, and was in sync with their usage of clear bright colors and flatly painted surfaces.  But in subject matter, she differed from them because, instead of focusing on simple objects, she addressed the human condition of everyday people and their dealings with love, violence, racial differences, etc.  In style, much of her work is geometric, with color blocks of solid paint used as a back drop to figures, which are often recognizable images such as black singer Chubby Checker.

Of the overall effect of her work, it was written: "Drexler had an eye for figures whose physical demeanor reflects psychic forces, such as people engaged in violence or sex---or not infrequently, both.  The implicit but unexplicit narrative meaning of these canvases seemed frequently sinister, sometimes amusing, always unsettling." (Heller, 161)  Some of her work is huge, such as Home Movies, 1963, which is 4 feet by 12 feet. 

By the end of the 1960s, however, Drexler had quit visual art activity, and did not pursue it again until the late 1980s when a 1986 traveling show of her work stirred correspondence from beginning artists, such as Robert Longo, expressing how relevant her collages were to a younger generation.  "Drexler's men in black suits and women in tight skirts and heels are parents to the figures in Longo's "Men in the Cities" series." (Feinstein, 175)  But her re-entry was through painting and the making brightly colored images of more complex subjects than her previous work. 

It cannot be assumed that she was idle during the time she was not making paintings and collages.  In fact, she wrote over 20 plays, many which were performed in New York City; the above-mentioned novels, and also wrote TV scripts including a 1974 Lily Tomlin special.  She raised a family, and in 1951, even had a brief career as a professional wrestler with the title "Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire".

Living into her 80s with her husband, Sherman, she resides in Newark, New Jersey (2007) and continues to write and paint.  For a feature article on Drexler in the June/July 2007 issue of Art in America, critic Roni Feinstein wrote:  "She is a natonal treasure and it is high time that her works of the 1960s, which have been resurrected and rediscovered any number of times, receive their due acclaim.  The histories of Pop and later 20th-century art need to be rewritten with Rosalyn Drexler's remarkably rich, prescient paintings finally playing a prominent role." (177)

Jules Heller and Nancy G. Heller, North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century
Roni Feinstein, "Strangers No More", Art in America, June/July 2007, pp. 174-177

Written by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

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