Rosalyn Drexler, 88, has worn many hats. Born in 1926 and raised in East Harlem and the Bronx, she traveled around the country in the late 1950s as a wrestler: Rosa Carlo, the Mexican Spitfire, an odd incarnation documented by Warhol in a series of silkscreens, ‘‘Album of a Mat Queen,'' in 1962. Since then, Drexler has happily digressed. In the 1960s, she became a novelist and an Obie Award-winning playwright. In the '70s, she wrote for film and television, winning an Emmy for a Lily Tomlin television special. And she adapted the blockbuster film ‘‘Rocky'' into a novel (under the pseudonym Julia Sorel).
Drexler first emerged onto the art scene in 1960 with a series of sculptures created using plaster and found objects, admired by critics and fellow artists alike. Always interested in a wide range of disciplines, she switched to painting and, by the early '60s, was well known for her brightly colored, cartoon- and film-noir-inflected paintings. Like fellow Pop Art practitioners Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann, Drexler incorporated images scavenged from the media, especially magazines; her technique was to collage and paint over them, allowing just a hint of the original to show through.
The multiplicity of Drexler's career has meant that her painting has often taken a backseat. But, she says, ‘‘I never wondered which was more serious. I was always so full of work and happy to be working. I was not thinking about my, quote-unquote, ‘career.'''
Drexler continues to paint to this day; however, it is her early work that has recently garnered renewed critical consideration, re-establishing Drexler as one of the key figures of Pop Art. ‘‘It's like a miracle, the attention that's being paid and the people writing about the work,'' she says. ‘‘I am finding out more about me than ever before.''