A different type of exhibit opens in Western Md.

Red Grooms' figures are `caricatures of reality'

Arts: museums, literature

May 27, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

It's just so different from what we typically show," said curator Amy Hunt of printmaker Red Grooms' pieces, now on display through July 3 at the decidedly traditional Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

"They aren't landscapes; they're not portraits," she said. But these 20 works most definitely are, as Hunt described, "caricatures of reality."

Grooms, a 60-something guy educated at the Art Institute of Chicago and the New School of Social Research in New York, creates each crowded and vibrant piece as a public or private snapshot of modern society.

His figures, captured on the street and in their homes, aren't consistently representational or proportionate, but the Nashville-born artist's human forms are always dynamic, even when depicted at rest.

As the subject of his 1980 etching and aquatint titled Dallas -14, Jack -6, a large-bellied man reclines, his couch-potato torso almost overpowering the composition as he points toward his television, which is broadcasting a football game.

The T-shirted, drinking man appears to be in a state of relaxation, but Grooms' emphasis on his subject's casual engagement with the TV allows the piece to illustrate a quiet, everyday action that's both familiar and humanistic.

It's that appreciation for life's uncelebrated pleasures that makes this artist's works stand out from that of his contemporaries.

Dallas, like many others in the Washington County Museum's show, is among Grooms' earnest and humorous creations that capture the not-so-easily grasped essence of real American life.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is inside Hagerstown's City Park at 91 Key St. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 301-739-5727 or visit www.washcomuseum.org.

For more arts events, see Page 38.

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