Dorothy Grebenak's work stands out as a touchstone of the emerging pop sensibilities that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. Further, her work in the medium of hooked rugs blurs the distinction between craft and fine art. Wright is proud to include Grebenak's work in our art sales.
4 Things to Know About Dorothy Grebenak
Grebenak worked almost exclusively in the medium of hooked rugs, a craft she taught herself
Her dealer, Allan Stone found her work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, not in the galleries but in the gift shop
She began her artistic career as a WPA muralist
Like her contemporaries Warhol and Lichtenstein, she used appropriation in her work
I don’t think what I do is Pop Art. People who name things probably would, but I don’t like labels. I think transposing something from one medium to another is droll. The idea of a big $5 bill makes me laugh.
Auction Results Dorothy Grebenak
Dorothy Grebenak 1913–1990
Dorothy Grebenak was born in Oxford, Nebraska in 1913. She lived with her husband Louis, a WPA artist, in Park Slope until 1971. Grebenak taught high school and studied dance. In the 1940s she began teaching herself rug-making and her works were initially sold in the Brooklyn Museum gift shop. She had solo exhibitions in 1963 and 1964 at Allan Stone Gallery, through which her rugs entered major private collections, including those of Nelson Rockefeller, Albert and Vera List, William and Norma Copley, Carter Burden, and John and Kimiko Powers. Her work was featured in various group exhibitions and was included in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Pop Art and the American Tradition exhibition in 1965. Recently, Grebenak was included in the 2010 exhibition, Seductive Subversion: Woman Pop Artist, 1958-1968 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. After her husband’s death in 1971, Grebenak relocated to London leaving the art world behind and where she died in 1990.
US currency, liquor labels, detergent boxes, rotary dials, and life-sized manhole covers, Dorothy Grebenak used such iconography to create hooked-rugs that fused modern pop-culture with America’s pastoral history. Upending traditional distinctions between fine, folk, and decorative arts, Grebenak subverts the readymade tendencies of the Pop-era to establish a cheeky-irreverence all her own. While her work has clear overlaps with the themes found in the forthcoming Feminist Art of the later-1960s and 1970s, Grebenak’s production exists largely outside this dialogue. While incorporating similar themes, her Pop Art has less in common with the ideals and politics of Judy Chicago or Miriam Schapiro, and is not necessarily related to the more blatant cultural commentaries of Warhol or Lichtenstein. Instead, Grebenak has more in common with Robert Arneson or H.C Westermann, men who challenged perceptions of crafts and fine art. A self- taught practitioner, she bought books on rug-making in the late-1940s and began refining her creations shortly thereafter. The works were initially sold in the Brooklyn Museum gift shop, and later, garnering the attention of Allan Stone, were elevated to their appropriate status on the walls of a gallery.