Life & Art Writer

There’s something to be said for the spontaneity of sketching. Red Grooms, a seasoned artist from Nashville, could have been like that kid in your class back in high school who would doodle all day and create works of art that could range from comical spoofs of masterpieces to caricature-like scenes of our daily lives.

Not that we’re talking about just a mere sketcher here – far from it. Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work is now on display at the Lowe Art Museum, and it is one of the most artful and inventive retrospectives the campus space has showcased this semester.

Some of these pieces are small, occasionally miniature gems depicting women on a balcony or even Mount Fuji, while others are large prints, showing everything from the chaotic streets of Manhattan to sensible, though humorous portraits of admired fellow artists such as Picasso and Willem de Kooning.

What sets Grooms aside from other printmakers, however, are his vivid 3-D lithographs that have been cut and assembled to replicate real objects – i.e., they jut off the wall to produce almost “real” figures and places. To say the least, these works are badass, no doubt about it, it’s like watching cartoons on mescaline.

Grooms recreates urban scenes so lifelike it’s scary. But besides these metropolitan tableaus, check out his carousel, bull ring, movie theater, Guggenheim Museum, opera house, and his lively 3-D lithographs of Fats Domino and one of Dali in, accordingly, a surrealistic salad medley.

Spanning over 50 years, Grooms’ work here reflects all he’s seen and experienced in his life. But, it’s most interesting to observe, as mentioned earlier, his unique, quirky vision of artists before his time and of his contemporaries. These were created as a droll sort of homage to these people that haven’t necessarily influenced him but, perhaps, have given him inspiration.

Rather than a making a clear-cut portrayal, Grooms inserts elements that could familiarize the viewer with the artist being drawn and impressionably accentuates certain aspects, such as Jackson Pollock’s untamed technique of wildly dropping paint onto the canvas.

Most importantly, the pieces are approachable and informal without losing their artistry. That’s really the moral of the story with Grooms. His talent as an artist seems only to be augmented by the casual style in which he creates his work – from drawings on rice paper in black and white to grand, multicolored prints that are masterful, slightly cartoonish pieces.

Even more, his work reflects a particular time and place. Nostalgia runs rampant throughout the show in such a way that you feel right there with Grooms as he was bringing them to life. It’s escapism at its best.

Red Grooms: Selections from the Graphic Work is at the Lowe Art Museum, 1301 Stanford Dr. on campus, through January 18. Call 305-284-3535 for more info.

Sarah Giusti can be reached at