Rosalyn Drexler

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Rosalyn Drexler
Born Rosalyn Bronznick
(1926-11-25)November 25, 1926
Bronx, NY, United States
Nationality American
Known for Painting
Notable work Marilyn Pursued by Death, 1963
Movement Pop Art
Spouse(s) Sherman Drexler (1925-2014)

Rosalyn Drexler (born 1926) is an American artist, novelist, Obie Award-winning playwright, and Emmy Award-winning screenwriter, and former professional wrestler. Although her early work was in sculpture, she was better known for her multimedia pop culture assemblages of found objects and her paintings, which included found images.[1] Recently, her work has received renewed critical attention and a retrospective exhibition of her career opened at the Rose Art Museum in February 2016.

In 2016, Drexler lives and works in Newark, New Jersey.

Rosalyn Drexler is represented exclusively by Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.[2]

Early life[edit]

Drexler (née Bronznick) was born in 1926 in the Bronx, New York.[3] She grew up in the Bronx and East Harlem, New York. Drexler had considerable exposure to the performing arts as a child, attending vaudeville acts with her friends and family.[4]

She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City where she majored in voice.[1] She attended Hunter College for one semester only before leaving school to marry figure painter Sherman Drexler in 1946.[5] She is the subject of many of her husband's paintings.[6] Together, they had a daughter and a son.

Professional Wrestling Career[edit]

In 1951 the Drexlers lived near Botner's Gymnasium where a number of female professional wrestlers practiced. Drexler became interested in this and pursued a brief career as a professional wrestler under the name "Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire."[7] She went on tour around the country, but returned home after encountering racism in the southern states. Andy Warhol made a series of silkscreen paintings based on a photograph of Drexler from her wrestling days.[8] Drexler's experience as Rosa Carlo later formed the basis of her 1972 critically acclaimed novel To Smithereens, which was the basis of the 1980 film Below the Belt.

Artistic career[edit]

Drexler began making found-object sculptures for display in her home while living in Berkeley, California where her husband was finishing his art degree. The sculptures were plaster accretions, built around found scrap metal and wood armatures, and reflected the informal Abstract-Expressionist-influenced Beat sculpture of the time.[4] In 1955, Drexler exhibited her first works alongside her husband's paintings.

At the urging of dealer Ivan Karp, she continued to exhibit after the couple moved to New York City. One critic called these early works "ridiculous and nutty" sculptures that revealed a "real beauty beneath their I-don't-care attitudes."[9] Her works were shown in New York in 1960 at Reuben Gallery, at which she participated in Happenings.[10] Her work was praised by David Smith and Franz Kline of the New York School. However, the Reuben Gallery closed after a year, and Drexler was not able at first to find another outlet for her work.

By 1961, Drexler switched to painting, developing her work from assemblage to Pop Art.[11][12] She search through old magazines, posters, and newspapers to source imagery for her paintings. Her self-taught process consisted of blowing up images from magazines and newspapers, collaging them onto canvas, and then painting over them in bright, saturated colors. With her use of popular imagery in her art, she became an early adherent of the Pop art movement.

Drexler signed with Kornblee Gallery, where she had solo shows in 1964–1966. In January 1964 her work was included in the "First International Girlie Exhibit" at Pace Gallery, New York. She and Marjorie Strider were the only two women Pop artists included in this exhibition, which also featured Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Tom Wesselmann. Drexler exhibited collages cut and pasted from girlie magazines. The work scandalized some, but her paintings were mostly well received. One critic noted, "Miss Drexler's collage paintings…fly through contemporary life and fantasy with a virtuosic, uninhibited imagination that is refreshingly direct in its frank expression of brutality, desire, pathos and playfulness."[13]

Drexler's paintings continued to enjoy favorable reviews and were exhibited in major Pop art exhibitions throughout the 1960s. She did not gain the level of recognition of many of her male peers; the major themes in her paintings—violence against women, racism, social alienation—were controversial topics in a genre known for being "cool" and detached.[14]

Drexler's Pop paintings have been identified more recently as early feminist artworks, although Drexler objected to this categorization, denying any deliberate political message in her work.[15] In spite of this, in 1968, Drexler signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[16]

Major Themes & Works[edit]

As well as drawing from her own experience, Drexler's work often revolves around women's roles as portrayed in pulp cinema, including women as moll, femme fatale, home wrecker- those in need of "moral comeuppance".[17] Her images were drawn from easily understood public media.

Her The Love and Violence series is a body of paintings that depicts abusive relationships between men and women. The canvases evoke the covers of pulp fiction novels, B-movie posters, and scenes from gangster films or film noir.[18] Works such as I Won’t Hurt You (1964), This is My Wedding (1963), and Rape (1962) depict sexual violence against women. While the men depicted are most often the abusers, in some paintings, such as Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) and Dangerous Liaison (1963), the dynamic between the male and female subjects is left more indeterminate. Other works in this series include The Bite (1963), Love and Violence (1965), and Baby, It's Alright (1963).

Is It True What They Say About Dixie? (1966) was inspired by a newspaper photo of Bull Connor, the police chief who instigated the Birmingham race riot of 1963, leading a group of white supremacists. The figures advance towards the viewer dressed in black suits against a stark white background. The painting, with a title taken from an American popular song, acts as an ironic commentary on the racial violence of her time.[19] Similar in composition and intent is the painting F.B.I. (1964) that both glamorizes the depicted government agents and questions their status as figures of authority.

The Men and Machines series, showing working men with various types of mechanical equipment, portrays Cold-War era images of technological advancements and plays on the cliché of machines as phallic symbols of male sexual power. Paintings in this series include Pilot to Tower (1966). Marilyn Pursued by Death (1967) is an image of Marilyn Monroe being followed by a male figure. Although "Death" appears to be a stalker or member of the paparazzi, the photograph after which the painting was made makes clear that the man is actually her bodyguard.

Paintings made after movie posters include King Kong aka The Dream (1963), modeled after the lobby card for John Lemont's 1961 film Konga, and Chubby Checker (1964), based on the poster for 1961 movie musical Twist Around the Clock.

Selected Exhibitions[edit]

Solo Exhibitions[edit]

  • 1960 - Rosalyn Drexler: Sculpture, Reuben Gallery, New York
  • 1963 - O.K. Harris Gallery, Provincetown, MA; Zabriskie Gallery, New York, April 15–May 4
  • 1964 - Kornblee Gallery, New York, March 17–April 14; Ward-Nasse Gallery, Boston, October 3–22; Sun Gallery, Provincetown, MA
  • 1965 - Kornblee Gallery, New York, April 24–May 8; Feingarten Gallery, Chicago
  • 1966 - Kornblee Gallery, New York, March 19–April 14
  • 1967 - The Contemporary Gallery, Jewish Community Center, Kansas City, MO, November 4–24
  • 1973 - Rockland State College, Suffern, New York
  • 1976 - The Visual Arts Gallery, Saint Catherine College, St. Paul, MN
  • 1978 - P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY
  • 1986–1987 - Intimate Emotions, Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York University, New York, July 14–August 28, 1986; Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina, September 9–October 12, 1986; Museum of Art, University of Iowa, Iowa City, November 1, 1986 – January 11, 1987
  • 1992 - Life: The Magic Show: Recent Paintings, LaMaMa Galleria, New York
  • 1998 - Nothing Personal: Recent Paintings, Maurine and Robert Rothschild Gallery, The Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, September 27–October 18
  • 2000 - I Won't Hurt You: Paintings 1962–1999, Nicholas Davies Gallery in association with Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York, March 7–April 8
  • 2004 - To Smithereens, Paintings 1961–2003, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, February 27–April 9
  • 2006 - Ends of Man, Paul Robeson Gallery, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, NJ, September 5–October 18
  • 2007 - I am the Beautiful Stranger – Paintings from the ‘60s, PaceWildenstein, New York, March 16–April 21
  • 2015 - Vulgar Lives, Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, February 19–March 28
  • 2016 - Who Does She Think She Is?, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, February 11–June 6
  • 2016-2017 - Who Does She Think She Is?, Albright-Knox Art Museum, Buffalo, New York, October 22–January 29

Group Exhibitions[edit]


  • New Forms–New Media II, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, September 28–October 22
  • Homage to Albert Camus, Stuttman Gallery, New York


  • Group Show (with Sol Bloom, John Button, Morton Lucks, Kenneth Kilstrom, Renata McLean, Henry Raleigh, Salvatore Sirugo, Tom Wesselmann), Tanager Gallery, New York, May 19–June 8
  • Great Jones Gallery, New York


  • The Closing Show 1952–1962, Tanager Gallery, New York, May 25–June 14
  • Rosalyn Drexler and Tom Doyle, Zabriskie Gallery, New York, April 15–May 4




  • The Painter and the Photograph, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, October 5–November 2, 1964; Museum of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington, November 15–December 20, 1964; Museum of Art, University of Iowa, Iowa City, January 3–February 10, 1965; Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, February 28–March 22, 1965; Museum of Art, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, April 1–May 7, 1965; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, May 19–June 21, 1965
  • Dealer's Choice: An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Prints, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, December 3, 1964 – January 3, 1965



  • The Harry N. Abrams Family Collection, The Jewish Museum, New York, June 29–September 5


  • Homage To Marilyn Monroe, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, December 6–30
  • Protest and Hope: An Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, Wollman Hall, New School Art Center, New York City, October 24–December 2, 1967


  • January ’70: Contemporary Women Artists, Hawthorn Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga, NY, January 6–29


  • Unmanly Art, The Suffolk Museum, Stoney Brook, NY, October 14–November 24


  • Rockland Community College, State University of New York, Suffern




  • College of St. Katherine, Saint Paul, Minnesota





  • American Women Artists: Part 1. 20th Century: The Pioneers, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, January 12–February 4
  • The New Portrait, P.S. 1, Long Island City, NY, April 25–June 10
  • 1+1=2, Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, NYC (traveling exhibition), January 24–February 18


  • Made in U.S.A.: An Americanization in Modern Art, the ’50s and ’60s, University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, April 4–June 21; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, July 25–September 6; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, October 7–December 7


  • Back Room: The Abortion Project, Simon Watson Gallery, New York, March 30–April 27





  • 50 Years at Pace, Pace Gallery, New York, September 17–October 23
  • Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism, The Jewish Museum, New York


  • Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, January 22–March 15, 2010; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska, July 30–September 10, 2010; Brooklyn Museum, New York, October 10, 2010 – January 9, 2011; Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, Massachusetts, January 20–April 3, 2011
  • Power Up: Female Pop Art, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, November 5, 2010 – February 20, 2011; Deichtorhallen Hamburg, April 29–July 10, 2011; Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, July 23–October 9, 2011


  • In the Pink, Joe Sheftel Gallery, New York, June 21



  • Pop Abstraction, Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, January 18–February 15, 2014



  • International Pop. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, April 11–September 6
  • Paper, Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, July 9–August 14, 2015


Selected Public Collections[edit]



  • I Am the Beautiful Stranger (1965)
  • One or Another (1970)
  • To Smithereens (1972)
  • The Cosmopolitan Girl (1974)
  • Unwed Widow (1975)—written under the pseudonym Julia Sorel
  • Starburn: The Story of Jenni Love (1979)
  • Bad Guy (1982)
  • Art Does (Not!) Exist (1996)
  • Vulgar Lives (2007)

Adapted Screenplays[edit]

written under the pseudonym Julia Sorel

  • Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976)—Adapted from the screenplay by Dalene Young
  • Rocky (1976)—Based on the screenplay by Sylvester Stallone
  • Alexander, The Other Side of Dawn (1977)—Adapted from the screenplay by Dalene Young
  • See How She Runs (1978)—Adapted from the screenplay by Marvin Gluck


Published work[edit]

  • Home Movies (1964).
  • The Line of Least Existence and Other Plays (1967)
  • "Skywriting" in Collision Course (1968)
  • "Hot Buttered Roll" in Theatre Experiment: An Anthology of American Plays (1968)
  • Methuen Playscripts (1969)
  • "Home Movies" in The Off-Off Broadway Book: The Plays, People, Theatre (1972)
  • Fiction (1972)
  • "Skywriting" in A Century of Plays by American Women, edited by Rachel France (1979)
  • Transients Welcome: Three One-Act Plays (1984)
  • "Occupational Hazard" in Women on the Verge: 7 Avant-Garde American Plays (1993)


Film and Television[edit]



  • Who Does She Think She Is? (1975), an hour-long film about Rosalyn Drexler directed by Patricia Lewis Jaffe and Gaby Rodgers
  • Below the Belt (1980), directed by Robert Fowler, suggested by Rosalyn Drexler's novel To Smithereens


Further reading[edit]

  • Johnston, Jill. "Rosalyn Drexler and Tom Doyle [Zabriskie; April 15–May 4]" (exhibition review). Art News 62 (April 1963): 14.
  • Sontag, Susan. "Going to Theater, etc." Partisan Review (Summer 1964).
  • Bourdon, David. "A Bout With Roslayn Drexler." Village Voice, 1965: 5–6.
  • Lippard, Lucy. Pop Art. New York: Praeger, 1966.
  • Drexler, Rosalyn. "Eight Artists Reply: Why Have There been No Great Women Artists?" Art News 69 (January 1971): 40–41.
  • Hess, Thomas B. and E.C. Baker. Art & Sexual Politics: Women's Liberation, Women Artists and Art History. New York: Art News Series, Collier Books, 1973.
  • Alloway, Lawrence. American Pop Art. New York: Collier Books, 1974.
  • Alloway, Lawrence. Topics in American Art since 1945. New York: W.W. Norton Co., 1975.
  • Women in the Arts: Artists Choice, 1976–1977. New York: Women in the Arts Foundation, 1976.
  • Munro, Eleanor C. Originals: American Women Artists. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
  • Taylor, Roger G. Marilyn in Art. London: Elm Tree Books, 1984.
  • Russell, John. "Intimate Emotions" (exhibition review). The New York Times, 25 July 1986.
  • Newhall, Edith. "Eye of the Prophet." New York Magazine, 11 August 1986: 15.
  • Drexler Rosalyn and Steve Bottoms, "Rosalyn Drexler, Interviewed by Steve Bottoms, NYC, 14/8/96", August 14, 1996.
  • Danatt, Adrian. "NY Artist Q&A: Rosalyn Drexler" (interview). The Art Newspaper, (March 2000): 77.
  • De Salvo, Donna. "Underrated: Rosalyn Drexler." Art News (December 2000): 121–130.
  • Brauer, David E. Pop Art: US/UK Connections (exhibition catalogue). Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2001.
  • To Smithereens: Paintings 1961–2003 (exhibition catalogue). Texts by Sid Sachs and Robert Storr. Philadelphia: The University of The Arts, 2004.
  • Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of Man: Works from 1961–2001 (exhibition catalogue). Newark, NJ: Paul Robeson Gallery, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2006.
  • Rosalyn Drexler: I am the Beautiful Stranger. Paintings of the ‘60s (exhibition catalogue). Text by Arne Glimcher and Rosalyn Drexler. New York: PaceWildenstein, 2007.
  • Baker, R.C. "Mexican Spitfire Returns" (PaceWildenstein exhibition preview). Village Voice, 7–13 March 2007.
  • Yau, John. "Rosalyn Drexler: I am the Beautiful Stranger—Paintings of the ‘60s" (exhibition review). The Brooklyn Rail, 16 March–21 April 2007: 36.
  • Minioudaki, Kalliopi. "Pop's Ladies and Bad Girls: Axell, Pauline Boty and Rosalyn Drexler." Oxford Art Journal 30.3 2007, 402-430.
  • Sachs, Sid and Kalliopi Minioudaki, eds. Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968. [exhibition catalogue] University of the Arts, Philadelphia. New York and London: Abbeville Press, 2010.
  • Hirsch, Faye. "Rosalyn Drexler." Art in America, (May 2015):105, 157.


  1. ^ a b Sachs, Sid (2010). Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968. Philadelphia: University of the Arts. pp. 162–72. ISBN 9780981911922. 
  2. ^ "Rosalyn Drexler". Garth Greenan Gallery. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  3. ^ John Yau, "In Conversation: Rosalyn Drexler with John Yau" the Brooklyn Rail, July–August 2007.
  4. ^ a b Siegel, Katy (2016). Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?. New York: Gregory R. Miller & Co. ISBN 9781941366097. 
  5. ^ Roberta Fallon, "You couldn't have known my work. How could you?" the artblog, March 27, 2004.
  6. ^ "Her husband, a figure painter, considers her his only model—and 'that's the way it had damed well better be,' said Mrs. Drexler." Excerpt from Grace Glueck, "Hip Heidi," The New York Times, April 25, 1965. See also "Sherman Drexler. Art Paradise: Fifty Years of Painting. January 13-February 12, 2005" Press release, Mitchell Algus Gallery, 2005.
  7. ^ Roni Feinstein, "Strangers No More," Art in America, June/July 2007, p. 177.
  8. ^ Bradford R. Collins, "Reclamations: Rosalyn Drexler's Early Pop Paintings, 1961-1967," in Sachs and Minioudaki, Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, New York and London: Abbeville Press, 2010, p. 164.The photograph was not taken by Warhol as indicated by Collins.
  9. ^ V.P. "Nine [Tanager], " ARTNews, Summer 1961, p. 18.
  10. ^ L.C. "Three More Faces of Eve: Rosalyn Drexler," ARTNews, March 1964, p. 64. See also Bradford R. Collins, "Reclamations: Rosalyn Drexler's Early Pop Paintings, 1961-67" in Sachs and Minioudaki (2010), p. 164.
  11. ^ Axell, Evelyne, and Angela Stief. "Rosalyn Drexler." Power up - Female Pop Art: Evelyne Axell, Sister Corita, Christa Dichgans, Rosalyn Drexler, Jann Haworth, Dorothy Iannone, Kiki Kogelnik, Marisol, Niki De Saint Phalle ; Kunsthalle Wien, 5. November 2010 Bis 20. Februar 2011, Phoenix Art. Köln: Dumont, 2010. 129.
  12. ^ Elaine de Kooning with Rosalyn Drexler, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? Eight Artists Reply. Dialogue," ARTnews, January 1971.
  13. ^ J.J., "Rosayln Drexler and Tom Doyle [Zabriskie; April 15-May 4]" ARTNews, April 1963, p. 14."
  14. ^ Bradford R. Collins, "Reclamations: Rosalyn Drexler's Early Pop Paintings, 1961-67" in Sachs and Minioudaki (2010), p. 162.
  15. ^ Rosalyn Drexler, as quoted in Bradford R. Collins (2010), p. 166.
  16. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
  17. ^ Sid Sachs, reviewing Rosalyn Drexler in POWER UP: Female Pop Art. Kunsthalle Wien, Gargosian Gallery (Dumont Publishers) - p129.
  18. ^ Collins (2010), p. 166.
  19. ^ Jorge Daniel Veneciano, "Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of Man," in Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of Man, exhibition catalogue, Paul Robeson Gallery, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2006, pp. 16-18.
  20. ^ "Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden". Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  21. ^ "Walker Art Center". Walker Art Center. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  22. ^ "Whitney Museum of American Art". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  23. ^

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