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Artists Rosalyn Drexler
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Rosalyn Drexler

American Painter, Playwright, and Novelist

Movements and Styles: Pop Art, Appropriation Art

Born: November 25, 1926 - The Bronx, NY

Rosalyn Drexler Timeline


"I adored my coloring books [...] I was addicted to outlining the pictures in contrasting colors, and enjoyed staying within the lines. Needed the control. My work begs for control. After all, I captured the images and buried them: now they want to escape. They lie layered and still, unable to move. They are contained and I can breathe a sigh of relief."
Rosalyn Drexler
"There's a narrative thread going through all my work. It may not be seen but it's in my head, like a kind of music. I get an idea to paint, and then I get ideas by painting. Some of the works do tell a story, but it's not like sitting down and telling a story, or even using one word, like some artists today. I don't use words in painting because I use words in books and articles."
Rosalyn Drexler
"I don't think my paintings were seen much back in the 1960s. It was the time for Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism; Pop was just beginning to rear its huge, glittering head. My work was a secret kind of thing. I was very close to the Abstract Expressionists, and to the women I worked with when we started Women in Arts - but no one realized I was a painter because I was writing about painting. I was happy being productive and having good friends and being ignored. But now I'm getting angry about it, looking back!"
Rosalyn Drexler

"If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances."

Rosalyn Drexler Signature


Rosalyn Drexler is an ex-professional wrestler whose experience as 'Rosa the Mexican Spitfire' influenced her subsequent work as a visual artist and writer, and who is now becoming recognized as a key feminist voice in the Pop Art movement. Her work is often grounded in her own experience, which includes the sexism and objectification she witnessed and had directed at her as an athlete, and the racism she saw in the American South whilst on tour during her wrestling career. Drexler's stark and colorful painting has an idiosyncratic and instantly recognizable visual style.
Drexler exhibited alongside Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, her husband Sherman Drexler and other Pop artists throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, although later art historians have argued that the critical consideration and acknowledgement of her work was limited by her gender until recently. Alongside her visual art practice, Drexler also maintained a very successful theatrical and literary career. She won multiple Obie awards for her plays in New York, and has published nine novels to date, most recently Vulgar Lives in 2007. One of her widely celebrated novels, To Smithereens (based on her experience as a wrestler) was adapted into the film Below the Belt in 1980. Drexler found the change of title objectionable, however, which returns once again to the questions of the representation of women and their stories within mass media that are raised by her paintings.

Key Ideas

Drexler, like many Pop artists, repurposed mass media images extensively. Sticking down images from magazines and movie stills in a form of collage, Drexler would then paint over them in oil paint, setting them against block backgrounds of color. These images, taken out of their original context of glossy celebrity magazines, soft pornography or newspapers, highlight multiple social issues of alienation, race, violence and the representation of women.
Although sometimes objecting to the categorization of her work as being 'only' feminist, Drexler's repurposing of images from mass media to emphasize their dismissal of women and the limited number of roles they were permitted to play in societal narratives has since been highlighted as an alternative to the objectifying, detached and predominantly male perspective of other Pop artists. Her work reminds its viewer that much of popular culture reproduces images and narratives of women that are severely limited and problematic.
Drexler works across multiple disciplines, raising the same questions and reflecting on similar experiences across literature, theatre and visual art. Wrestling, for example, appears in many of her novels and plays, and is also represented in several paintings. Drexler is perhaps rare in that almost all her work across multiple creative industries is critically acclaimed.

Rosalyn Drexler Artist Overview Page:

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Lewis Church
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