Over the years, Red Grooms has used his special brand of vernacular caricature to poke sophisticated fun at the rich and famous of arts and letters. Recently, an East Coast show featured pencil drawings of famous New York School personalities, including a look at the fabled Cedar Bar hang-out, complete with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning locked in mortal combat and Clement Greenberg shaking a polemic figure at a staid Harold Rosenberg.
A current show offers L.A. a taste of Grooms' New York School and other portraits. With an offhanded nod to art's recent fling with "appropriation" and the avant-garde's perennial preoccupation with originality, Grooms uses a parody of subjects' "signature" style to model their likeness. In a delightfully silly piece, Grooms creates a litho of De Kooning's "Woman," then builds a three-dimensional Willem riding a bike that bursts through the picture from behind (like those tacky Kodak commercials), sweeping the famous femme onto the handlebars in the process. A huge three-paneled painting of Joan Mitchell at work transmits all the astringent energy of the person and her work. Always able to switch gears and lace humor with subtle narrative, Grooms uses a washy watercolor to describe a fragile Pierre Bonnard who worked in a time when artists didn't yet have the luxury of super star egos. (Saxon-Lee Gallery, 7525 Beverly Blvd. to Jan. 23.)