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Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work

October 2, 2004 - January 2, 2005



(above: Red Grooms, Slushing, 1971, color lithograph, 22 x 28 inches, Collection of Walter G. Knestrick, © Red Grooms)


The James A. Michener Art Museum is proud to announce an exhibition of the largest collection of Red Grooms prints ever collectively assembled, to be displayed in the Museum's Wachovia Gallery in Doylestown from October 2, 2004 through January 2, 2005. This 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 has been organized by the Tennessee State Museum from the collection of Walter G. Knestrick. The exhibition reveals the practiced hand of a life-long master draftsman and a perfectionist who has experimented with all facets of printmaking. (right: Red Grooms, South Sea Sonata, 1992, 3D color lithograph, 20 3/8 x 21? x 11 3/8 inches, Collection of Walter G. Knestrick, © Red Grooms)

The exhibit consists of more than 100 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 a multitude of art forms varying from delicate soft ground etchings to an eight-foot-tall woodblock print, spray-painted stencils, and much more.

Grooms is a prolific contemporary artist, perhaps best known for his "sculpto-pictoramas," large-scale environmental art constructed with hardware store supplies. His work appeals to a broad spectrum of the public, according to exhibit curator Susan Knowles. Knowles is an independent scholar and writer who has been active on the Nashville art scene for more than 20 years.

"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 school. 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 10-minute piece was performed nine times in 1959. In Burning Building Red appeared as "Pasty Man," a good-natured pyromaniac who eludes Keystone Kop-like 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. Grooms' filmmaking is characterized by a lively blend of costumes and props and various kinds of visual distortions and animation. In all, he has made twelve films of various lengths. (right: Red Grooms, Flatiron Building, 1996, color etching with soft ground and aquatint, 45 x 26 inches, Collection of Walter G. Knestrick, © Red Grooms)

In 1967, Red produced his first major construction piece, The City of Chicago, which is now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. 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 "Ruckus Manhattan," a public exhibition of the sights, sounds, smells, and shapes of America's biggest melting pot. "Ruckus 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.

This exhibition is being organized in conjunction with the publication of a catalogue of Grooms' graphic work, written by Knestrick, a boyhood classmate of Grooms who has collected the artist's prints over the years, Knestrick introduces the reader to Red Grooms and tells of his 50-year friendship with the artist from their early artistic experiments in Nashville to their collaboration on this assembly of Red Grooms' graphic work.

In addition, a show catalogue focusing specifically on Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work is available with selected pieces and an essay by the curator. Both catalogues will be on sale in the Museum's Denoon Gift Shop in Doylestown and the Museum in New Hope.


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