Rosalyn Drexler - Photo of the artist - Image via pinterest new york 1963 gallery 2017 canvas view gallery museum

Rosalyn Drexler

United States 1926

Pop Art

Rosalyn Drexler
Rosalyn Drexler
United States
May 22, 2017
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Rosalyn Drexler is an American artist with a massively impressive and characteristic résumé – she is a novelist, an Obie Award-winning playwriter and an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter. And she is a former professional wrestler! However, she seems to be best known for her multimedia pop culture assemblages of found objects and her paintings/collages that included various found images. Drexler was one of the early women artists to excavate the depths of the American kitsch and popular culture for her art-making practice[1]. She created paintings by collaging pictures from B-movies and tabloids directly onto her canvases before painting over them in a neat, flat style that relied on the unique visuals of the acrylic paint.

Home Movies(1963) is the paiting Rosalyn Drexler made in her unique colorful style
Rosalyn Drexler – Home Movies, 1963 – Image via

Growing Up in New York City

Drexler was born in 1926 in the New York City where she grew up in the Bronx and East Harlem part of the town. Drexler had considerable exposure to the performing arts as a child as she was attending vaudeville acts with her friends and family on regular basis. Her parents also exposed her to the visual arts at an early age, buying her art posters and books which she later cited as an influence. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City where she majored in voice before attending Hunter College for one semester. In 1946, she left school in 1946 to marry figure painter Sherman Drexler at the age of 19.

Always attracted towards the newest art standards, Rosalyn Drexler began her career at a very young age

Rosalyn Drexler's The Defenders (1963) is a collage / acrylic paint on canvas work that can be found in the New York Collage museum
Rosalyn Drexler – The Defenders – Image via

Rosalyn Drexler – an Artist and a Wrestler

Drexler began making found-object plaster sculptures for display in her home while living in Berkeley[2], California where her husband was finishing his art degree. In 1951, the Drexlers lived near Botner’s Gymnasium where a number of female professional wrestlers practiced – young Rosalyn started working out and learning Judo there. Soon, she went down to Florida to train, wrestle and tour under the character of Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire. While on tour, she wrestled in odd places such as a graveyard and an airplane hangar. She went on tour around the country but returned home after becoming upset about racism in the southern states, such as segregated seating and water fountains.

Drexler’s career is full of unique events and situations one would be hard pressed to find within any other art biography

Men and Machines I is a great example of how Drexler (1963 - 2017) made new gallery/museum works that had the acrylic and collage in contact with the surface of the canvas
Rosalyn Drexler – Men and Machines I, 1965 – Image via

The Search for the Related, Popular Vocabulary

By 1961, Drexler started changing her work from assemblage to Pop Art. She searched 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. Interestingly, Drexler has never had a studio of her own while and usually worked anywhere she could, typically at her home. With her use of popular imagery in her art, she became an early adherent of the Pop art movement. Drexler’s paintings continued to enjoy favorable reviews and were exhibited in major Pop art exhibitions throughout the 1960s. The major themes in her paintings—violence against women, racism, social alienation—were controversial topics in a genre known for being “cool” and detached[3].

Despite being extremely talented, Rosalyn Drexler did not gain the level of recognition many male artists of the Pop art moment enjoyed

Rosalyn Drexler used to view the world around her, not restraining the view to gallery or museum view, and result of these observations were works like Climbing Out of a Painting Ain't Easy
Rosalyn Drexler – Climbing Out of a Painting Ain’t Easy, 2012 – Image via

Not About Customers or Being Bought

Like most female authors of the 1960s, Rosalyn Drexler was a victim of the social system that gave an edge to male artists. Due to her gender, Drexler’s work has been pushed aside for decades now – however, a recent revival of interest in her work has finally brought this artist the long due and well-deserved critical attention. Nowadays, her name can be found along the lines of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann. Furthermore, Drexler, who never cared about the status or pricing when it came to her art, is now renowned for the fact that she, unlike most other Pop artists, had a very subjective and personal approach to making artwork, which was a truly refreshing touch within a movement that often seemed to be too machinelike.

Rosalyn Drexler lives and works in New York City, the United States.


  1. Drexler, R., Art Does (Not!) Exist, Fiction Collective 2; 2nd edition, 1996
  2. Drexler, R., Rosalyn Drexler: Vulgar Lives, Garth Greenan Gallery, 2016
  3. Als, H., Lethem, J., Lobel, M., Minoudaki, K., Siegel, K., Drexler, R., Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?, Gregory R. Miller & Co., 2016

Featured image: Rosalyn Drexler – Photo of the artist in front of her artwork, 2017 – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibitions TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Hand-Painted Pop! Art and Appropriation, 1961 to NowThe Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT Group
2016Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY Solo
2016Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA Solo
2016Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney's CollectionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2015Rosalyn Drexler: Vulgar LivesGarth Greenan Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2015the tiny picture showPavel Zoubok Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2015PaperGarth Greenan Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2014Pop to popismArt Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW Group
2014Pop AbstractionGarth Greenan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2012In the PinkJoe Sheftel Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2011Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, MA Group
2010Female Pop ArtMuseumsquartier, Vienna Group
2010Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY Group
2010Shifting the Gaze: Painting and FeminismThe Jewish Museum, New York City, NY Group
2010Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE Group
2007Rosalyn Drexler: I am the Beautiful Stranger Paintings from the 60sPace Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2007Beauty and the Blonde: An Exploration of American Art and Popular CultureMildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO Group
2006Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of ManPaul Robeson Campus Center 350 , Newark, NJ Solo
2006Newark Between UsNewark Arts Council, Newark, NJ Group
2004Rosalyn Drexler; To SmithereensRosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Solo
1992The Abortion ProjectHallwalls at The Church, Buffalo, NY Group
1986Rosalyn Drexler: Intimate EmotionsUniversity of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA Solo
1984The New PortraitMoMA PS1, New York City, NY Group
1978Another Aspect of Pop ArtMoMA PS1, New York City, NY Group
1978Women Artists Paint Women ArtistsVirginia Miller Galleries, Coral Gables (Miami), FL Group
197576 JeffersonMuseum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY Group
1964Dealer’s Choice: An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and PrintsContemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX Group
1964First International Girlie ShowPace Gallery, New York City, NY Group