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Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work

November 22, 2003 through January 18, 2004


The largest collection of Red Grooms prints ever collectively assembled will be on view at the Lowe Art Museum from November 22, 2003 through January 18, 2004. The national touring exhibition covers more than 40 years of printmaking by the internationally-known artist, Charles Rogers "Red" Grooms.

Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work, which was organized by the State Museum in Grooms' hometown, Nashville, Tennessee, reveals the practiced hand of a life-long master draftsman and a perfectionist who has experimented with all facets of printmaking. (right: Elvis, 1987, lithograph)

The exhibit consists of some 130 objects including both two and three-dimensional works. This comprehensive collection of Grooms' graphic works from 1956 to 1999 offers a display of the artist's unique mastery of an array of printmaking techniques. It includes multitude of art forms varying from delicate softground etchings, an eight-foot-tall woodblock print, spray-painted stencils and much more.

Grooms is a prolific, contemporary artist whose work appeals to a broad spectrum of the public, according to exhibition curator Susan Knowles. Grooms is perhaps best known for his "sculpto-pictoramas," large-scale environmental art constructed with hardware store supplies.

"Printmaking for Grooms began in making gifts for friends. Later, it became a vehicle to disseminate his vision of the city as a site of invigorating chaos. Finally, it provided an opportunity to work with master craftsmen and to align himself with great artists from the past," according to Vincent Katz, a contributor to the catalogue, which will accompany the exhibit.

Grooms was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937 and began his artistic experimentation while attending public schools. In 1955, while still a senior in high school, Grooms exhibited in a two-man show of 35 paintings in a Nashville gallery.

In 1957 Grooms moved to New York City to participate in its art scene while working such odd jobs as a movie house usher. The vibrant color of his hair earned him the name "Red," and his art "Happenings," unstructured live performances, began to gain him a measure of notoriety. His most famous performance was Burning Building, a 1O-minute piece performed nine times in 1959. In Burning Building Red appeared as "Pasty Man," a good-natured pyromaniac who eludes Keystone Kop-ish firemen. This character re-emerges in Red's later works as the free wheeling, toe-tapping anarchist, the infamous "Ruckus."

In 1962, in part as an outgrowth of his performances, Red made his first important film, Shoot the Moon. A mish-mash of costumes and props and various kinds of visual distortions and animation are the qualities that characterize Red's filmmaking. In all, he has made 12 films of various lengths. (right: Dali Salad, 1980, 3rd lithograph)

In 1967, Red produced his first major construction piece, The City of Chicago, which is now in the collection of the Chicago Art Institute. It was a large, colorful, satirical view of city life, and it was a tremendous hit with the public. It earned Red a cover article in Look magazine.

During the 1970s Grooms paid homage to the Big Apple with Rucus Manhattan, a public exhibition of the sights, sounds, smells and shapes of America's biggest melting pot. Rucus Manhattan was a defining point for Grooms' career. Throughout the late 1980s and the mid 1990s, he almost single-mindedly devoted himself to New York Stories, a series of prints and sculptural tableaux dedicated to the textures of the bustling metropolis. Knowles, curator of the exhibition, is an independent scholar and writer who has been active on the Nashville art scene for more than 20 years. The exhibition is being organized in conjunction with the publication of a catalogue raisonné of Grooms' graphic work, written by Walter G. Knestrick, a life-long friend and a major collector of his work.

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