November 19 – December 31, 2020
November 19 – December 31, 2020
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to announce the gallery’s third online viewing room, Rosalyn Drexler: In the Ring. Opening November 19, 2020, the exhibition features a selection of Rosalyn Drexler’s dynamic boxing works on paper, all made in 1991, and related paintings made throughout her career.
The sport, so well suited to America’s mythos and macho culture, is a favorite subject for the artist, whose paintings often explore mass spectacle, violence, and intimacy. Drexler herself was a practitioner of judo and, for a time, a professional wrestler under the stage name “Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire.”
Her keen kinesthetic awareness is apparent in works like Decked Him (1991), which depicts a historic fight between the American boxing titans Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson falls through the ropes into the crowd, his body doubled over from the force of LaMotta’s glove. A solitary fist from the audience rises up into the frame, prompting questions about the complicity of the audience—for whom the fight is ultimately fought—in the violent scene: Is the fist a bloodthirsty cheer or an attempt to break the fighter’s fall?
Drexler has maintained an ambivalent relationship toward the sport. Under the nom de plume Julia Sorel, she herself participated in the mythmaking around boxing through her novel adaptation of Rocky. Yet she has frequently condemned the sport in categorical terms, calling it “ugly and brutal.” “There’s nothing romantic or artful about boxing,” she has said.
In Hand Reaching Up to Ring (1991) Drexler, again, explores the audience’s complicity. Drexler described the hand as “reaching up from the depths of a hidden multitude.” As the shadowy figures trade blows, the hand reaches into the spotlight. But the hand itself is ambiguously rendered. If palm up, it reads like a supplication to stop the fight; if palm down, like a familiar dictatorial salute.
Drexler’s works often explore the contradictions at the heart of popular depictions of violence: their charged excitement, their simultaneous glamor and horror. In Going Down (1991), LaMotta and Robinson are frozen together, locked in mutual destruction, their eyes shut tightly as their fists strike each others’ faces. Jake LaMotta is rendered in neon green against the dynamic fuchsia background. The brutal scene is strangely intimate. Fittingly, the February 14, 1951 fight in Chicago was deemed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Robinson eventually prevailed with a technical knockout, though the stunned LaMotta seemed determined to remain standing.
Born in 1926 in Bronx, New York, Rosalyn Drexler first began exhibiting her work during the late 1950s. Since then, she has had over 20 solo exhibitions, including at Reuben Gallery (1960, New York), Kornblee Gallery (1964, 1965, 1966, New York), and Pace Gallery (2007, New York). In 1986, a retrospective of her work—Rosalyn Drexler: Intimate Emotions—opened at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University. Another survey exhibition, Rosalyn Drexler and the Ends of Man, took place in 2006 at Rutgers University’s Paul Robeson Gallery (Newark, New Jersey). Her most recent 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, New York). In 2010, her work figured prominently in Sid Sachs’ landmark exhibition Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968 (2010, University of the Arts, Philadelphia), as well as Power Up: Female Pop Art at the Kunsthalle Wien. More recently, Drexler’s paintings were included in Pop to Popism at Australia’s Art Gallery of New South Wales(2014–2015, Sydney); International Pop (2015–2016, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection (2016–2017, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York); and Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965 (Grey Art Gallery, New York University).
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; the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College; the Grey Art Gallery, New York University; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; the Museum of Modern Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; the St. Louis Art Museum; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Wadsworth Atheneum; the Walker Art Center; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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).
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Rosalyn Drexler.
Rosalyn Drexler: In the Ring will be available to view online, through December 31, 2020. For more information, please contact Garth Greenan at (212) 929-1351, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.