Cheers to Picasso and Other Art World Legends

Feb 28, 2014

Studio at the rue des Grands-Augustins, 1990-96 by Red Grooms

Red Grooms dreams big, and draws large. Using paint, colored pencils, charcoal, and crayon, his super-sized canvases about life within the art world won’t just warm your heart; they will enlarge it three-fold.

“I love the way Red shows ourselves to ourselves,” explained Elisabeth Hodermarsky, the Sutphin Family Senior Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, and organizer of Red Grooms: Larger Than Life, an exhibition which runs through March 30 the Yale University Arts Gallery. She said, “There’s so much of contemporary art that’s very cold and metallic, Red is really about humanity and warmth.” 

Picasso's huge grin from "Picasso Goes to Heaven" appears to invite us to enter the canvas, and celebrate with the artist's entourage.

When visitors enter through either of two festive portals that Grooms created specifically for the fourth floor gallery, they’re greeted by the theatrical imagery of three floor-to-ceiling, cinema-like works. These include: "Cedar Bar" (colored pencil and crayon, 1986), "Studio at the rue des Grands-Augustins" (acrylic on canvas, 1990-96), and "Picasso Goes to Heaven" (acrylic and charcoal on paper, 1973).

Grooms admitted to a fascination with movies, the circus, and even the toy figures he played with as a child. In his variety of cartoon-book styles, a love for entertaining us has influenced his paintings, site specific installations, and "walk-through" pieces that bring you inside inviting and imaginative worlds.

“Working large is fun. It’s really fun,” Groom admitted with a gentle smile. “I did want to create a big canvas, sort of a spectacle out of it.”

At times, Grooms wonders why he never pursued a career in Hollywood. "Being young," he said, "I would see a film -- what we called movies -- and I just wanted to be part of something like that. For some reason, probably deeply personal, I have really always just wanted to create out of my own environment, which would be my studio. So that gave me a scale."

Not unlike the characters and sub-plots of a Robert Altman film, where real-world relationships often intersect at the edge of absurdity, Grooms creates cinema-size canvases that reveal animated personalities and characters-in-relationship, sketched so dynamically that they’re about to jump out of the frame. Picasso’s huge grin from "Picasso Goes to Heaven" appears to invite us to enter the canvas, and celebrate with the artist’s entourage.

To enhance the exhibition, Grooms has also provided the Yale Gallery numerous formative cartoon sketches for "Cedar Bar." All combined, the collection has been thoughtfully selected and assembled by Hodermarsky, and supplements this delightful exhibition.

At age 77, Grooms's enthusiasm for the process, and his humble and delightful disposition when sharing the colorful stories behind his subjects in Larger Than Life, prove as engaging as the work itself.