Dorothy Grebenak was born in Oxford, Nebraska in 1913. Her husband Louis, also an artist, was a WPA printmaker who later turned to “Hard-Edge” painting. The couple lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn until 1971. Grebenak taught high school and studied dance. In 1963 and 1964 she had solo exhibitions 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. After her husband’s death in 1971, Grebenak relocated to London, where she died in 1990. Recently, Grebenak was included in the Seductive Subversion: Woman Pop Artist, 1958-1968 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2010.
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-60s and ‘70s, 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 HC Westermann, men who challenged perceptions of crafts and fine art. A self-taught practitioner, she bought books on rugmaking in the late-40s 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.