Learning from Exhibitions: Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work. (Cover Story)
Johnson, Mark M., Arts & Activities
Red Grooms truly is a most imaginative artist, technician and observer of life. As a painter, printmaker, sculptor, paper engineer, satirist and social pundit, Grooms combines a variety of talents and characteristics to create art objects quite unlike anyone else.
Born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1937, Charles Rogers Grooms began pursuing his artistic interests at the age of 10 when he enrolled in an art class at the Nashville Children's Museum. After high school, he studied at the Peabody College in Nashville before moving on to the Art Institute of Chicago, the New School for Social Research in New York, and a summer in Provincetown studying under Hans Hofmann.
By the age of 20, Grooms was living in New York City, fully involved in its contemporary art scene, participating in one-man and group exhibitions, doing "happenings," and making art films. Since the late 1950s, Grooms has worked as a painter, sculptor, printmaker and filmmaker. However, he is best known today for his extravagantly scaled "sculpto-pictoramas," which are created from a variety of media ranging from watercolors and prints to metal sculpture and mixed-media constructions that have a seriousness of purpose distorted by his whimsical creations.
Grooms' keen powers of observation have long served to maintain for him a distinctive place in American art as his stories unfold laced with humor, invention and unparalleled skills. He works not only as an artist, but also as an actor, director and producer. Whether he is undertaking a complicated 3-D edition at a print shop, working on a contemplative self-portrait, depicting revered artists of the past, or involving a team of artists on a multimedia design project, Grooms shines in every role.
The three-dimensional print or multiple titled Dali Salad was inspired by a trip to the supermarket. Here, Grooms nestled a portrait of the mustachioed surrealist, Salvador Dali, amidst a bounty of salad ingredients including lettuce, celery, green onions and radishes, topped off with butterflies and a strawberry. Equally fantastic is the combination of printing techniques from silkscreen to lithography, the exacting hand painting and cutting, and the variety of materials from aluminum to pingpong balls.
Frequently revisiting favorite themes, Grooms has created 3-D images of numerous other artists including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock (called Jackson in Action) and Paul Gauguin. Titled South Sea Sonata, the French post-impressionist is depicted creating a pen-and-ink drawing within a tropical setting.
In addition to paying homage to historical and contemporary visual artists, Grooms, on occasion, looked to his own likeness for inspiration. Mayan Self-Portrait depicts the near-32-year-old artist somewhat in the configuration of a pre-Columbian sculpture as interpreted by the artist after a trip to the Yucatan. …