Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, October 31, 2008

Scene article on Grooms and Luong collection

As promised, here's this week's article in the Scene. It's a review of the show at Cheekwood of art from the personal collection of Red Grooms and his wife Lysiane Luong (there are two art pieces in the paper this week, the other one written by Maria, covering the show by Michael Oliveri in the Temporary Contemporary gallery--Cheekwood and our household take over a whole page in the paper).

I thought the Grooms/Luong collection review out pretty well. I did rely on one of my tried and true tricks--grab a volume of Walter Benjamin and see if there's something in there that gives me an idea. Benjamin is great for this. He has all these great sounding quotes, but so much of his stuff is in aphorism and fragments, which is perfect for a lazy writer like me. But there's stuff in the last few paragraphs about the ownership of meaning that catch something I've been thinking about for a while and its good to get it out in print.

The review is definitely not an assessment of Grooms work, but I ran across something in Benjamin's essay "Unpacking My Library" that seemed like it would work great as a starting place for discussing his work.

I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth. This is the childlike element which in a collector mingles with the element of old age. For children can accomplish the renewal of existence in a hundred unfailing ways. Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals--the whole range of childlike modes of acquisition, from touching things to giving them names.

Painting of objects, cutting out of figures, application of decals--this sounded oddly like Grooms' artistic practice, especially in the 3D stuff, from pop-ups and cut outs to installations. Its interesting to think of his activity as a collector of art not as some side-line hobby but as integral to and of a piece with his art-making. To think of his art-making as a kind of collecting--his drawn, painted, printed, and fabricated figures have a quality of being picked up directly from the street. He stops short of actually gleaning, picking up objects and bringing them back to the study--plenty of artists practice that, which is another way back into this Benjamin quote--but Red Grooms' figuration is so tied to observation that it depends on the actual physical world in a particularly intense way. His figures are not figments of his imagination.

Off to New Orleans in a few hours. Maybe I'll blog from there. I'm sure the trip will at least be good for a post-trip post.

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