Born in the Bronx, New York in 1926, Rosalyn Drexler first began exhibiting her work during the late 1950s and was a fixture of the Pop Art scene by the early sixties.
Appropriating imagery from popular journals and other printed matter, Drexler transforms otherwise prosaic images by adding bright pigments and creating new contexts. Cutting reproductions from magazines, Drexler fixes her strategically selected images to canvas and overpaints the resulting collage, thereby eliminating the visual trace of the underlying, mechanically reproduced images. As with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Rosalyn Drexler works to challenge the concept of originality along with the role of the painter in an age of mechanical reproduction.
Not only creating iconic images, Drexler’s work as well presents a social narrative during a time in which narrative, having been banished by the Abstract Expressionists, was relegated to the speech bubbles in Lichtenstein’s paintings. Behind the tabloid images, her art deals with social issues presented in the vernacular of American 1940s Film Noir and French Nouvelle Vague. Drexler’s imagery is complex and more difficult to immediately recall than that of her contemporaries: her paintings are iconic in incident as well as image.
In addition to her work as a visual artist, Drexler is also an accomplished novelist and playwright. She published her first play in 1963 and her first novel in 1965. She is the recipient of three Obie Awards, as well as an Emmy Award for her work on Lily Tomlin’s television special Lily (co-written with Richard Pryor).
Notable exhibitions include: Reuben Gallery (1960, New York), Kornblee Gallery (1964, 1965, 1966, New York), Grey Art Gallery, (1986, New York) Pace Gallery (2007, New York), and Garth Greenan Gallery (2015, New York). A survey exhibition, Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of Man, took place in 2006 at Rutgers University’s Paul Robeson Gallery (Newark, New Jersey). A retrospective exhibition, Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?, took place at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University (2016, Waltham, Massachusetts); it traveled to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in October 2016 and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in February 2017.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Drexler’s paintings were featured in many important museum exhibitions, such as Pop Art USA (1963, Oakland Art Museum, California), The Painter and the Photograph (1964, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University), American Pop Art (1974, Whitney Museum of American Art), and Another Aspect of Pop Art, (1978, P.S. 1, Institute for Art and Urban Resources). In 2010, her work figured prominently in Sid Sachs’ landmark exhibition Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968 (2010, University of the Arts), Power Up: Female Pop Art (2010 Kunsthalle Wien), Pop to Popism (2014, Australia’s Art Gallery of New South Wales), International Pop, (2015–2016, Walker Art Center, Dallas Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art), and Human Interest, (2016–2017, Whitney Museum of American Art).
Drexler’s paintings are in the collections of many museums, including: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; the Allen Memorial Art Gallery, Oberlin College; the Colby College Museum of Art; Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida; the Grey Art Gallery, New York University; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; the Wadsworth Athenaeum; the Walker Art Center; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.