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Mirabile Dictu: The Bryn Mawr College Library Newsletter

Fall 2009 Issue 13

Red Grooms, Portraits of Artists
Emily Croll


grooms studioIn the spring of 2010, Bryn Mawr College will present an exhibition of more than thirty works of art by Red Grooms, one of the most engaging and important American artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Grooms has a long association with the Philadelphia region. In 1982, his fifty-by-fifty-foot sculptural environment, Philadelphia Cornucopia, was installed at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, as part of the city’s tricentennial celebration. In 1985, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts organized a major retrospective exhibition of Grooms’s work, which traveled to museums across the county. In the late 1980s, Philadelphia Cornucopia was again on view at 30th Street Station.

The upcoming exhibition at Bryn Mawr will focus on Grooms’s portraits of artists, a theme that has fascinated him since the start of his career in the 1950s. These portraits embody the humor, immediacy, and artistic vigor that are hallmarks of Grooms’s art. The earliest works in the exhibition will be his 1958 pencil drawing and linocut print Five Futurists, which the artist has credited as marking “the beginning of my infatuation with the likeness and work of other artists.”1 During the following five decades Grooms has returned many times to the exploration of images of artists and their artwork. The Bryn Mawr exhibition will include Grooms’s portraits of iconic artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as group portraits of artists arrayed in famous gathering places such as the Les Deux Maggots in Paris and the Cedar Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The exhibition, which will be on view in the Rare Book Room of Canaday Library from late March through early June 2010, will include drawings, sculptures, and prints. Grooms has experimented with many print techniques during his career, and among his most recent works are a series of etchings, aquatints, and monoprints featuring artists Alberto Giacometti, Francisco de Goya, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Aubrey Beardsley. The print of Giacometti, reproduced on the cover of this issue, depicts the artist and his studio in rich tones of grey and black flanked by the attenuated white figures of his sculptures.

In conjunction with the Grooms show, Bryn Mawr will publish an illustrated exhibition catalog with an interview with the artist conducted by Friends of the Library Board Member Michèle Cahen Cone ’51. Dr. Cone, an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in twentieth-century art, has been friends with Grooms and his wife, the artist Lysiane Luoung, for many years and her essay will explore both the inspiration and creation of his artist portraits.

Johanna Gosse, graduate student in History of Art, will assist Emily Croll, Curator and Academic Liaison for Arts and Artifacts, with the research and organization of the exhibition. Gosse’s curatorial work is being supported by an NEH Fellowship awarded by the Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art.

Although Grooms is best known for his larger-than-life installation pieces, he also participated in happenings in the late 1950s and early 1960s and created several short films and documentaries early in his career. A selection of Grooms’s films, as well as films about his life and art, will be presented during Spring 2010. For further information about the exhibition and related programs, please contact Emily Croll, 610-526-5335,

1 Knestrick, Walter. Red Grooms: The Graphic Work. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.


Red Grooms in his studio with (from left to right) Bryn Mawr graduate student Johanna Gosse, Friends of the Library Board Member Michèle Cone, and Marlborough Gallery Director Kim Schmidt.