The Art of Red Grooms: Selections from the Palmer Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania State University

By Kletchka, Dana Carlisle | Art Education, July 2002 | Go to article overview

The Art of Red Grooms: Selections from the Palmer Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania State University


Kletchka, Dana Carlisle, Art Education


Recommended for High School Students

Biography

Born in 1937 in Nashville, Tennessee, Charles Rogers "Red" Grooms always felt a bit isolated in what was then a small-town environment. This sentiment was compounded by the realization at a young age that he wanted to become an artist, which he considered a unique and somewhat unusual calling. The perception of not "fitting-in" to any one category defined an adult Grooms, whose artwork consistently defies being compartmentalized into one art-historical category. Although he experimented in the realm of Abstract Expressionism in college, he found it too far removed from the events of everyday existence to continue working in that particular style. Early in his career, he staged and participated in "Happenings," or theatrical, often spontaneous performance art. Later, he collaborated on films and began to create art in a wide variety of media, including printmaking, relief works called "stick-outs," and "sculpto-pictoramas," or large-scale, three-dimensional pieces that reflect his ongoing interest in theatre. Grooms's compositions overflow with bright colors and a cast of characters that are at once humorous, endearing, and painfully real. One author states that "Grooms distills the joyful, at times comic, essence, truly celebrating the heroism of modern life" (Robinson, 1998, p. 18).

According to Robinson (1998), a short story by Edgar Allan Poe titled "The Man of the Crowd" was a profound influence on Grooms's philosophy and work. From his seat in a coffeehouse the narrator observes and describes crowds of city-dwellers, from business clerks to gamblers, all fascinating for their unknown histories. Grooms's artwork is inspired by meticulous observation and is largely derived from two sources: the people and places of New York City, his adopted home, and the art world. His images exalt the activities of people in their everyday lives, recognizing the inherent complexities of their world, and celebrating the mundane. To prepare for his work, Grooms arms himself with a sketchpad and a throw-away camera, creating a "snapshot" of potential subject matter. For him, drawing is comparable to the act of writing, for both similarly translate detailed observations into images.

Objectives

* Learn about the history and philosophy of the art of Red Grooms.

* Look critically and carefully at four of Grooms's artworks to discover their unique characteristics.

* Discuss issues and thoughts raised by these works.

* Complete creative projects related to themes in Grooms's artwork. Dali Salad, 1980

Color three-dimensional lithograph and silkscreen. 26.5 x 27.5 x 1 2.5 inches. Gift of Joseph D. and Janet M. Shein Acc. #99.56

In this unconventional print, artist Salvadore Dali's pale head and hands emerge from a mass of lettuce, turn-tips, celery, and green onions. His jet-black trademark mustache and hair stick straight out, echoing the disarray of the "salad," while his white eyes pop nearly out of their sockets. Butterflies delicately rest on his hands as he kisses a strawberry with one of two mouths. Dali, a well-known Surrealist artist, was famous for his unusual personality and dream-like, haunting artworks. He wore a pencil-thin mustache curled into trademark spirals and is often seen in photographs with a wide-eyed, overly dramatic expression on his face. Dali spent his life surrounded in a sea of controversy: The public perceived his work as frightening or bizarre, his behavior was highly unpredictable, and he made no secret of being dishonest in his business practices. He regularly signed blank sheets of paper destined to become prints, created by other artists and subsequently sold at a high price on the art market. This occurred so frequently that it is now unclear how many signed prints are actually by his hand. Dali Salad, in addition to capturing the eccentric, contradictory personality of the artist and his work, is Grooms's response to the exploitation that Dali facilitated through clearly deceptive practices. …

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