High-spirited artist Red Grooms lampoons the ordinary
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Grooms's 16-mm films take the illusion of movement a step further. In a recent interview, he affirmed his fascination with animation: ``I like animation because it allows you to let the characters come alive. There is an element of play in having your characters do something in time and space.'' ``Fat Feet'' is a favorite on the experimental film circuit. The magical and fantastic inhabit these frenetic comedies, mocking society's pretensions and illusions.Skip to next paragraph
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Several works in the exhibit are derived from Hollywood movies, myths, and icons. ``A Light, Madam,'' ``Somewhere in Beverly Hills,'' ``Western Pals,'' and ``Shoot-Out'' take their inspiration from early motion-picture making. A sardonic element permeates these works, exposing the fundamental absurdity of movie-made sophistication.
His vision of the human condition is essentially theatrical, often cinematic. If Grooms mocks the great American icons of politics and the silver screen and shares his amusement at the human comedy as he sees it played out daily, his work also reflects a lively appreciation and genuine affection for those who people his landscapes.
We may laugh at the horrified expression of a woman on a subway who gasps at the derelict fallen across her lap (in ``Ruckus Manhattan''), but we aren't likely to despise her. Grooms has us participate in her reality and in his by drawing us into the subway with its moving floor, its crowded seats, its visual clutter.
Since the whole human comedy, including great works of art history, elicits a participatory response from Grooms, his hommage to much-loved work sometimes looks like parody. But something deeper is going on. In ``Night Hawks Revisited'' Grooms takes Edward Hopper's famous painting and translates it into contemporary terms. Hopper's quiet caf'e is viewed from a distance. The deserted street frames the isolated figures in the caf'e. The restrained color palette of Hopper's p ainting explodes in the brash light of Grooms's caf'e. A car rushes past on the trash-littered street. Cats and punks stride the neon-bright night sidewalks. A dynamic tension unites the various units of energy, the patrons of the caf'e, in one busy, buzzing whole. Is that Red himself serving behind the counter? Grooms joins in Hopper's vision, transforming it into the vernacular of his (and our) own times.
``Part of my work is about the immediate experience I'm going through,'' Grooms has said. ``The art isn't just about art. I'm participating in the general hubbub. I don't see [making art] as an isolated occupation. I always thought . . . you were supposed to be learning something as you did it.'' The immediacy of his vision, his unsentimental gaze at the commonplace, his tough wit, perspicacity, and vitality celebrate the rush and clutter of human experience, in which he en ergetically participates.
``Red Grooms: A Retrospective'' is on view at the Denver Art Museum through Jan. 5. It may be seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, from March 12 to June 29 and then at Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, from Aug. 17 to Oct. 26, 1986. -- 30 --