Red Grooms: The Blue and The Gray

Opens October 8, 2016

Red Grooms.  Battle of Lookout Mountain, 2010

The Civil War, America’s story, is told by Red Grooms, American artist, who for 50 years has brought life from city and country to sculpture and canvas, with truth that he inflects with compassion and humor.

Long linked to the Hudson River Museum by The Bookstore, a “walk-through” sculpto-pictorama that has amazed and amused Museum visitors for over 30 years, Grooms turns, now, to the story of the war America waged within its own borders.  Red Grooms: The Blue and The Gray, at the Hudson River Museum, from October 8, 2016 through January 15, 2017, shows us this war vividly in color and action.

Grooms’ paintings and installations of our contemporary environment are famous for a parade of dazzling personalities busily engaged in the moment. We recognize their faces, body language, and motivations. The war waged by the Northern and Southern states presents Grooms a new canvas of arresting people and their ambitions.  Steely-eyed generals—Grant, Jackson, Sherman; women who powered the war―femme fatale Southern belles and Union spies, and soldiers in blue and gray who stoically bear the brunt of battle with little ammunition and even less food but who can be brought to tears by a letter from home – North or South.

Grooms records the panorama in portraits and the landscapes of battle scenes on the face of sliced logs and on wood  in oil and graphite, settings for his paintings as rustic as the countryside where many of the war‘s battles raged. The faces of African-American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass and of John C. Calhoun, defender of slavery, both appear.  Union Major General Custer is painted with attitude and there are three silver-haired Robert E. Lees. Above the squabbling generals, the near-missed victories, and the sad defeats of the four-year struggle, stands President Abraham Lincoln, whom Grooms paints in two portraits, Magenta Lincoln and Lincoln in Beersheba. In the line of Lincoln’s lips and the square of his shoulders that Grooms draws, he gives us the leader, the only possible one, who could carry the country through this scarring time.  Grooms shows us the battles Grooms shows us two battles, both in Tennessee―the Battle of Lookout Mountain fought just before the lunar eclipse that screened the Confederate retreat off the mountain, and the Battle of Shiloh, the “bloodiest battle of the war,” where the Southern general–in-command was felled, mortally wounded, and the Northern general-in-command mustered, overnight, 40,000 more soldiers to hold the field. Hard fighting.

Echoing and illuminating Grooms’ art in this exhibition are paintings, photographs, maps, and medals, from the Hudson River Museum’s trove of historical images from the Civil War.

Grooms, a longtime New York City resident and artist, originally from Nashville, Tennessee, began his career in the city during the late 1950s and early 60s, during the creative fervor of SoHo “happenings” and the advent of Pop Art. From the 1960s to the 70s, Grooms produced a series of bright-colored installations viewers could walk through like Philadelphia Cornucopia and Ruckus Manhattan.  In the 1990s Grooms returned to his exploration of the Civil War that interested him in his youth.

Organized by the Hudson River Museum.

Tom Burckhardt: FULL STOP
October 8, 2016 – February 12, 2017

Tom Burckhardt. Full Stop, 2005-2006

Tom Burckhardt has created a 3-D immersive environment filled with the materials of a modern painter toiling in romantic obscurity. FULL STOP (2005-06) is a full-scale replica of a mythical artist’s studio made of cardboard, wood, glue, and flat black paint. The installation, 10 feet high by 18 feet wide is filled with art historical references, such as Jackson Pollock’s shoes and Jasper Johns’s Savarin coffee can that here holds paintbrushes. The viewer who enters the walk-through studio observes the tools for art making and art books that provide inspiration, but sees no product.  In the center of the studio stands an empty canvas. Burckhardt said, “I wanted to capture the situation when an artist has run out of ideas and is blocked…”, or, comes FULL STOP.  Burckhardt, himself, is the foil for the “block.” His studio appears grounded somewhere between the 1940s and 60s, a time when painting moved from Abstract Expressionism to  Pop Art, and then on to the conclusion that it was obsolete, an idea embodied by the empty canvas at the center of the installation. This narrative of nullity comes up against Burckhardt’s own energy. He wanted a lively cartoon quality and  chose a brown palette — “Rather than painting it in full color, I like the cartoon quality of black and tan, so you can really see that it’s cardboard.”
          Tom Burckhardt’s many installations include his restoration of The Bookstore, a Pop Art masterpiece by Red Grooms, and a permanent installation at the Hudson River Museum.

Tom Burkhardt: FULL STOP is curated by Michael Goodson, Director of Exhibitions, Columbus College of Art & Design in collaboration with the artist.