Red Grooms: Paul Bocuse’s World

May 28, 2013

Paul Bocuse’s World, 1977
Red Grooms (born 1937)
Acrylic on canvas with wood frame construction, 106 x 181 x 1 5/8 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Balistocky, 2012


In 2012, Dr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Balistocky generously donated Paul Bocuse’s World, a significant painting by the American artist Red Grooms (born 1937). One of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century, Grooms was born in Nashville, Tennessee and began studies at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1955. He settled in New York City in 1957 and continued his studies at the New School in addition to studying under Hans Hoffman (1880–1966) at his School of Fine Arts in Provincetown.

Art historians and critics have struggled to categorize Groom’s diverse artistic practice. His initial endeavors were in performance, theater, and film, and he was one of the first participants in performance art events known as “happenings” in 1959. Grooms—along with fellow artists Allan Kaprow (1927–2006), Claes Oldenburg (born 1929), and George Segal (1924–2000)—was associated with the late 1950s and 1960s impulse to reject the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. Rather than base subject matter on personal psychology, he looked to popular culture and the hectic character and life of the crowded city for inspiration.

By the mid-1960s, Grooms was creating the “sculpto-pictoramas” he is best known for today; two- and three-dimensional, figurative installation art that captures the vitality of the people and places depicted. His primary subject is New York City, and his largest installation to date, “Ruckus Manhattan” (installed in1975 at Marlborough Gallery in midtown Manhattan) documents that raw, urban landscape. During the exhibition, visitors walked over bridges; through city streets; and past taxis, pedestrians, and parts of Central Park. One critic refers to Grooms’ creations as “three-dimensional cartoons” that present caricatures of the spectacles of everyday life. Besides the metropolis, his subjects include famous works of art, artists, film and theater celebrities, sports, and scenes from travels both around the nation and abroad.

In the mid-1970s, Grooms travelled throughout France and created this painting of the celebrity chef Paul Bocuse (born 1926). Bocuse is acknowledged to have revolutionized French cuisine with the introduction of nouvelle cuisine; gastronomy characterized by fresh, high quality ingredients and innovative presentation. In Paul Bocuse’s World, Grooms utilizes the same bold palette and energetic brushwork seen in his multi-media constructions. Within the canvas and artist-made frame, Grooms presents a glimpse into the chef’s main restaurant, l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon. Architectural details from the restaurant’s exterior frame the hustle and bustle of the busy kitchen while patrons sample the chef’s signature dishes—black truffle soup topped with puffed pastry (soupe aux truffes Paul Bocuse first served to the former French President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, in 1975), fish, and Bresse chicken. Bocuse, arms crossed as usual, is positioned on the left of the scene to welcome the viewer into the restaurant’s ornate interior.

Paul Bocuse’s World was first shown in Paris in 1977 and was later included in the artist’s first major retrospective at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1985 and a solo exhibition that travelled in Japan in 1993. You can find this lively painting on long term display in the Museum’s Catherine A. Fusco Grand Hall.

Margaret Winslow
Associate Curator for Contemporary Art

This Curator Corner was posted on May 28, 2013.

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