Red Grooms: The Bookstore

witchRed Grooms’ dazzling installation, was created as a working gift shop for the Hudson River Museum in 1979. After extensive conservation, this beloved Westchester landmark has been reinstalled in its own gallery. The Bookstore incorporates many of the themes that run through Grooms’ best work: the marriage of art and commerce, the clash of high and low, colorful New York characters, and an inviting three-dimensional space that envelops and transports the viewer. The Bookstore deftly joins two favorite haunts of New York City book loverinterior– the lively, oldest secondhand bookshop in NYC, the Isaac Mendoza Book Company, and the Pierpont Morgan Library – into a work of art. In terms of materials, The Bookstore was one of a limited number of pieces in which Grooms incorporated vinyl figures. The figures are painted from the inside, a technique inspired by medieval glass-painting techniques, and then are stuffed and sewn. Tens of thousands of visitors passed through The Bookstore, and, embraced by its environment, it inevitably began to suffer ravages caused by its popularity. Plans were developed to restore the work and Grooms enthusiastically approved the conservation efforts and changes, which include altering the position of the two entrances to fit new gallery space, the creation of a central island that incorporated the original vinyl patrons, and the design of a painted floor. Grooms remains cautious of making too many changes to a piece that reflects a vision of New York in the 1970s, already passing into history. “An artist can overwork a thing – you can ruin the delicacy of a past moment very easily …I think it’s better to keep it like it was – primitive in that way.”


Red Grooms, The Bookstore, 1978-79 - Restored by Tom Burckhardt, 2007-08
Mixed media installation, Hudson River Museum Purchase, 80.4.1

PHOTOS: Simon Alexander