From Exhibition Catalogue: Lynne Drexler Painter, Monhegan Museum Portland Museum of Art, 2008, by Susan Danly.

"Lynne Mapp Drexler was born in Newport News, Virginia in 1928. Drexler began her study of art as a child, painting landscapes by the tender age of eight. In the late 1950s, after attending the College of William and Mary in Virginia, she immersed herself in Abstract Expressionism, studying with Hans Hofmann in both his New York and Provincetown schools. From there she went on to graduate study at Hunter College in New York City with Robert Motherwell. 


But it was her early years in New York, first as a student and then as the wife of an artist, which shaped her own art and her dealings with the art world. Both Hultberg and Drexler were from a second generation of Abstract Expressionist artists that emerged in the latter half of the 1950s. This group—which also included Larry Rivers, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Joan Mitchell, Robert Goodnough, and Grace Hartigan, among many others—had begun to challenge the hegemony of abstraction, and gradually figurative elements began to reappear in their art, which was equally informed by the gestural brushwork and emphasis on color in earlier Abstraction Expressionism. 


In 1961, Lynne Drexler’s paintings first came to the attention of several well-known artists who were members of the influential Tanager Gallery—Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Lois Dodd, and Sally Hazelet.  The Tanager Gallery, which operated as an artist’s collective from 1952 to 1962, provided an important venue for some of these second-generation Abstract Expressionists. Drexler’s first solo exhibition, which included new, large-scale paintings (60 x 45 inches) represented her first step toward a mature and independent style. It is clear that by 1961 her distinctive patchwork of color had emerged as a principal organizing form in her abstract art. 


Over the course of the following two decades, Drexler showed her work sporadically in New York at the Landmark Gallery’s annual Christmas group shows between 1974 and 1979 and in one-person shows at the Alonzo Gallery in the early 1970s.  During the early 1980s, her paintings frequently appeared in group shows at the Veydras Gallery in New York.  It was a basic tenet among the Abstract Expressionists, among whom she matured, that any dedicated artist should continue to work even without critical acclaim.


For a period of three years in the mid-1960s, Drexler accompanied her husband on extended travels to the West Coast, Mexico, and Honolulu in search of new artistic opportunities. In 1963 Hultberg received a grant to work on a series of prints at the Tamarind Print Studio in Los Angeles, and Drexler also executed some experimental lithographs there. In 1965 her paintings were exhibited at the Esther Robles Gallery, one of the city’s important galleries dedicated to contemporary art, and there were a few notices of her work in the local press. The most important appeared in a 1967 article in the Los Angeles Times Home Magazine that included views of Drexler’s paintings purchased at the Robles Gallery on the walls of a newly constructed, modern-style home furnished with Sam Maloof’s contemporary furniture in the fashionable and pricey suburb of San Marino, just east of downtown Los Angeles.  


Returning to New York in 1967, Drexler and Hultberg moved into the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street, long a mecca for the city’s bohemian arts community. Among its more famous, and sometimes infamous, residents were the author Thomas Wolfe, the avant-garde composer Virgil Thomson, and playwright Arthur Miller. During the 1960s, it had become a haven for rock musicians, including Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and the Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol’s film, The Chelsea Girls, replete with drag queens and street people, was filmed there in 1966. The owner of the hotel was an art collector who frequently accepted artwork in lieu of rent. The lobby walls were filled with paintings by such well-known artists as Larry Rivers and Jackson Pollock, as well as one of Lynne Drexler’s abstract works. 


But the Chelsea Hotel was hardly a residence conducive to listening to classical music and, furthermore, with an atmosphere charged with “sex, drugs, and rock’ n’ roll,” it was impossible to work there.  When Drexler developed serious problems with her eyesight (she was colorblind for a period of six months) and her career seemed stalled (especially compared to that of her husband), she grew increasingly depressed and attempted suicide.  In 1971, as a means of escape from the stresses of the city, she and Hultberg bought the Monhegan house from Martha Jackson and began to spend more time on the island. They divided their time between summers in Maine and winters in New York, as did most of the artists working on the island at the time." 

September 16, 2021