Thinking back on the postwar era when he emerged as a sculptor, Robert Morris said that the “great anxiety” was “to fall into the decorative, the feminine, the beautiful, in short, the minor.” What he didn’t mention: that almost all art by women was bound to be described by those adjectives, and dismissed.
That leaves me all the more astounded by the early work of Rosalyn Drexler, still working today at 96. Created in the years around 1960, the art in this show fearlessly trumpets its femaleness.
A wacky little sculpture called Pink Winged Victory, not quite nine inches tall, seems to be a biomorphic, almost abstract riff on the figure of Nike from the Louvre, with the addition of a prominent vulva. Fat Lady, a sculpture that’s barely bigger, depicts its subject as a pair of spindly green-and-black striped legs with a big pink blob proudly sitting on top — this, at a moment when plus-size women were hardly celebrated and when pinks and pastels were considered taboo in women’s art, as the critic Lucy Lippard once recalled.
At Garth Greenan, a dozen tiny drawings done in brightly colored markers could almost pass as the work of an ebullient child, except that their subjects are frankly pornographic. In the sex acts depicted, Drexler seems to dwell on the woman’s pleasure.
And yet, given that most of the objects here would barely crowd a night stand, it feels as though Drexler could not yet imagine her vision of empowered womanhood as something for full-scale public consumption.