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High-spirited artist Red Grooms lampoons the ordinary

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The frantic glee of a Red Grooms cityscape astonishes and delights. The excitement, noise, fury, fun, and foolishness of city life leaps out of the picture frame, arresting the viewer with wild colors and frenetic activity. Grooms has observed and recorded in intricate detail the fabric of the city as an event. The traveling exhibition ``Red Grooms: A Retrospective,'' which originated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and is currently on view at the Denver Art Museum, generates high spirits. Responding to the festive atmosphere of the exhibition, teen-agers and children instantly relate to his lampooning of the ordinary.

In his 30-year career, Grooms's stature as an artist has been critically acclaimed and his popularity established. A rebel from the high idealism of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, Grooms was linked with Pop-Art but defies so narrow a categorization. In fact, no ``ism'' defines his work. Much of it resembles cartoon, though it is infinitely expressive and individual. He worked in various media -- from the ``happenings'' of the '60s to painting, performance, sculpture, lithography, and film -- and h is ``unique ability to successfully turn every material he picks up to his own ends transcends craft,'' says Jane Fudge of the Denver Art Museum. ``He is one of the seminal artists working in the US today.''

Grooms is a master of the moment frozen -- the woman in midstride, the football player tackled, the many-legged dog or cat dashing across a street in petrified animation. Grooms absorbs the detailed facts of everyday life, records them, and propels them back to us as a unified whole.

So much of his work strains under the impulse to move that, not surprisingly, some of it is wired to do so (as is ``The City of Chicago''). In his collaborative ``Ruckus Manhattan,'' Grooms built a walk-through subway car with a moving floor. The sensation of train movement enhances the work's effect. The ludicrous oversized papier-m^ach'e inhabitants of the subway are all the more engaging as we move through the sculpture.


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