Red Grooms: Ruckus in Roslyn



Red Grooms: A Universal Artist

Grooms assessment of the world around him resonates with the universal. Upbeat it may persistently be, but the observations are convincing and compelling because they are true. Whether regarding the fat man or skinny woman, smirking urchin, or curvaceous sex pot, Grooms allows no considerations of current notions of political correctitude get in the way of his story. Anti-elitist? To be sure. He's having a ball and so should his audience.

In a celebration of his own work, Chez Red, 2004, "at Red's," as on an invitation to a party, the artist portrays a cast of characters familiar from other areas of his work, from sports figures to that ubiquitous pair of artist provocateurs "Eva and Adele" sometimes known as the "pinks," shown in their fishnets and mini-skirts, kissing at the lower left of the composition. It is a mixed bag of personalities, and a lot of attention is given to the chefs carving their meats and tuxedo-ed waiters spraying champagne. All involved are having a wonderful time, and that is exactly what we, the visitors to Red Grooms' world of optimism and joy in life can experience.

For those who know his work, the very mention of Grooms' name evokes a positive response, there is always a smile, and a sense of understanding, of being very much n agreement with this artist. The appeal is immediate: color is overwhelming, like in Matisse and the Fauves. The subject of course, is immediately recognizable. However, one knows immediately that this is the world viewed through the eye of an artist. But, it is not the dispassionate, cool, eye of the photo-realist who is several steps removed, by technology, from his subject and can study it with psychological detachment. Grooms injects his own passionate and enthusiastic personality into every line and shape.

The works assume the distinctive Red Grooms look as an outgrowth of the artist's instinctual expressionism. There is no Sturm and Drang, there is no deliberate brooding or moodiness, no negativity or psychic trauma of any kind. One is not used to this from Expressionism. It is equally removed from serenity, classicism, and calm, moods that came to pervade such art as the later work of Matisse. Grooms is emphatically positive, and the element he seizes upon most persistently is life. Rare is the Red Grooms that doesn't effectively convey the life-force of its' subject. He rarely portrays altogether inanimate objects, unless they are accompanied by people. But even when he does, the buildings themselves seem to also come to life as they twist and stretch in varied contortions, as if they could say, yes, we too are alive, since we possess the energy and thought of those who made us and use us.

Grooms upbeat take on things reflects a world view which largely turns away from the persistent inhumanity in history and every day events. Art has a place for all the other circumstances: In the last hundred years or so, the sequence of art movements has always offered options for dealing with life's troubles, either those of the artists per se or those of the general history of the world. In the larger picture, all the hot spots of psychic angst and physical torment, have found their place in art. In contrast, Red Grooms art, utterly unpretentious and natural, affirms the good things in life and seizes upon joy in general, whether it be modest pleasures or themes that are grand in scope and ambition in an almost encyclopedic catalogue of topics.

While on principle not sharply tendentious, Grooms' social conscience becomes evident in the caricature manner in which he portrays the city ambience. Although generally his depictions of local human foibles appear quite benign, his awareness of their contrast the, perhaps somewhat edenic , conditions at his home region is undeniable. Although his audiences appear greatly entertained by the acuity of his creations, they must also be aware of the artists' satirical slant, and at times, the possibility of a certain implied degree of social disapproval.

Yet Grooms can make virtually any subject or theme, his own, but since the variety of his interests is evidenced by his identification with New York, the scope is wide. His essential grasp of truth is verified by observation. For viewers attuned to his work, outer reality starts to look like Red Grooms art, especially of a crowd anywhere in New York City, or the people encountered on any of its streets. This phenomenon of pronounced affinity is characteristic of very few other artists. In that vein, the perceptual patterns in works by Edward Hopper, Richard Estes, Duane Hanson, or Fernando Botero, to name some besides Red Grooms, can be transferred from their work and readily affirmed by real life. In this respect, the Social Realist component of Red Grooms' oeuvre, his grasp of the salient aspects of his subjects' character, edited to the most pertinent and memorable elements, sustains this tenet.




Editor's notes:

Nassau County Museum of Art is hosting the exhibition Red Grooms: Ruckus in Roslyn from November 20, 2005 through February 5, 2006. For this original exhibition of works by one of America's best-known and most whimsical pop artists, curators Constance Schwartz and Franklin Hill Perrell have worked closely with the artist, his gallery, Marlborough, and private collectors to gather a compendium of Grooms' best-known themes, especially that of the gritty reality of New York City. Never seen together, these large and small-scale works in painting and sculpture exemplify a rich range of the artist's interests including entertainment and the circus. Grooms, a native of Tennessee, has become so involved in the development of this showing of his works at Nassau County Museum of Art that the exhibition is titled "Ruckus in Roslyn."

Nassau County Museum of Art's Celebrity Lectures continues on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 with an intimate talk by the famed artist Red Grooms whose works are currently on view at the museum in a major exhibition, Red Grooms: Ruckus in Roslyn. In an informal conversation with the museum's director, Constance Schwartz, Grooms will discuss his art, career and life. The series is sponsored by Roslyn Savings Foundation.

(above: Red Grooms, Hot Dog Vendor, 1999)


The above essays were rekeyed and reprinted on November 4, 2005 in Resource Library with permission of the Nassau County Museum of Art. The essays are included in a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Museum for the exhibition Red Grooms: Ruckus in Roslyn held at the Nassau County Museum of Art. If you have questions or comments regarding the essays, please contact the Nassau County Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


(above: Red Grooms, The Plaza, 1995, mixed media construction, 70 x 92 x 18 inches)


Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Ms. Doris Meadows, Nassau County Museum of Art, for assistance concerning the republishing of these essays.

Readers may also enjoy:

these Resource Library articles and esays:

this online audio:

Hear a 17-part commentary by Pop Artist Red Grooms and Museum curators about the whimsical exhibition Red Grooms: In the Studio held February 9 - May 25, 2008 and the newly reinstalled sculpture The Bookstore. The Hudson River Museum says: "One of America's major artists with a truly popular following, the worlds that inspire Grooms stretch from silent movies to dance halls to America's urban canyons and first colonies. Red Grooms grew up in Nashville and began his career as an actor. His sense of theater is integral to the multimedia experience he creates in sculpture, paintings, and films. Now a quintessential New York artist, Grooms shows the city's people and their neighborhoods with both wit and acute comment. His commentary has endeared The Bookstore to thousands since its installation at the Hudson River Museum in 1979." Commentary may be downloaded.

this online catalogue:

In June, 2008 TFAO learned that the Hudson River Museum is in the process of having its books listed in Google Books, with some of the books scanned to date. A Google Book Search conducted June 19, 2008 located the following book indicated as having been published by the Museum online via Google Books in Full View mode:

TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Red Grooms and "Fat Feet" is available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Red Grooms: Sunflower in a Hothouse is a 21 minute 1987 video, directed by Thomas L. Neff, received an Academy Award nomination in 1986 for Best Documentary Short. Barbara Haskell, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, offers insight into Grooms's pieces and their place within twentieth century art.
Red Grooms Talks about Dali Salad is available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.. As a Pop artist, Red Grooms has always been fascinated with the ordinary and the everyday. In the artwork Dali Salad, he used paper, vinyl, aluminum, wood, steel, plastic, and even Ping-Pong balls to create a lively and humorous portrait of Salvador Dali, a Surrealist painter whom Grooms describes as having "both exploited and been exploited in the print field. "A behind-the-scenes look at the production process shows how Grooms's three-dimensional print was made -- from the conception of the salad motif to the actual printing and assemblage of the work at the Minneapolis-based printmaking studio Vermillion Editions. 4 minute video from The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Related video is Red Grooms and "Fat Feet".

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.


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