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Rosalyn Drexler's Self-Portrait, 1964

January 4, 2017

Rosalyn Drexler (American, born 1926). Self-Portrait, 1964. Acrylic and paper collage on canvas, 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm). Beth Rudin DeWoody. © 2016 Rosalyn Drexler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

On the occasion of Rosalyn Drexler: Who Does She Think She Is?, we are taking a closer look at several of the works in the exhibition. This week: Self-Portrait, 1964.

As Rosalyn Drexler explains, “In art you’re always finding yourself, you’re always looking for yourself.” In playful performances for the camera as well as in her books, plays, and paintings, Drexler has experimented with the visual clichés of mother, pin-up, and tough girl. Toying with her own identity, she has been less concerned with finding a single “true” self than in discovering the multiple characters that make up each one of us.

In the mid-1960s, it was deeply radical for a woman artist to depict herself as a pin-up—as Drexler does here, borrowing from a photo featured in a 1957 issue of Ultra in which she also appeared. Despite its playfulness, the work was uncomfortable for the artist, who felt ambivalent about the influence of sexist roles for women on women’s own sexuality and desire. Self-Portrait anticipates the kind of role-playing that artists like Cindy Sherman would explore almost twenty years later.