Red Grooms Unveils Huge Stadium Sculpture

Miami - Could it be that the Miami Marlins fans are less than thrilled with the fantastic new $2.5 million Red Grooms sculpture recently installed centerfield at the new Marlins Park stadium? Art collectors of ArtKabinett social network have mixed feelings about the work's artistic merit.

It’s a 60-foot-tall Lisa Frank-worthy explosion of pink flamingos, palm trees and sunbursts. And every time a player hits a home run the whole kitsch-bomb explodes with 27 seconds of leaping motorized marlins, soaring seagulls and a blowhole blast of water.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria, who is also a New York art dealer and a member of the Art Dealers Association of America, commissioned the sculpture from the pop artist as part of the $634 million budget for the new ballpark. “It's going to be the most amusing home run feature in all of baseball,” he told the Palm Beach Post last month.

But many observers have been less receptive. “It is so tacky, therefore so Miami,” wrote the Miami Herald, while The Miami New Times called it “insanely ugly.”

The Baseball Nation blog was even less generous:”If Carnival and Las Vegas had a baby, this would be the placenta.” It's what Bernie Brewer thinks he's sliding down after a couple buttons of peyote. Don't avert your eyes. Look at it. Study it.

If Charlton Heston ever lands on Planet of the Fish, this will be their version of the "It's a Small World" ride. This is what would happen if Vikings attacked a Gloria Estefan concert by catapulting flamingos and marlins into the pyrotechnics display.

When asked by the Palm Beach Post about the criticism, Grooms compared the project to another less than well-received installation he did in Nashville. “It was the same thing; it got an audience that didn’t really know who I was,” he said, adding that maybe some critics didn’t like the design because it wasn’t directly sports-themed.

The "exploding scoreboard" was the brainchild of White Sox owner and famous midcentury Pop Artist Bill Veeck, who introduced it to Comiskey in 1960, so it's poetic that an Art Institute legend would be drafted to create the Marlins' own for their new stadium.

Grooms didn't actually last very long at the AIC. He packed up and moved to New York to attend the New School for Social Research, where he didn't last very long either.

But he fell in with the Happenings crowd of Claes Oldenburg—himself an AIC grad, former City News Bureau reporter, and future Pop Art star known for massive installations—and his career took off.

But Grooms's breakthrough work came from a return to the city: City of Chicago, a massive three-dimensional walk-through painting/sculpture/set that filled the Allen Frumkin Gallery at its debut in 1968 with hallucinatory, towering figures of Mayor Daley, Hugh Hefner, Abraham Lincoln, and Al Capone, capturing the chaotic city on the brink of revolution.

The piece put him on the cover of Look; the next year, influential art critc Peter Schjeldahl would compare him to Marcel Duchamp in a New York Times review.

City of Chicago was Grooms's first venture into the realm of interactive sculpture—he's called himself a sculptopictoramatist—and he's followed the concept throughout his career, going on to create massive scenes of his adopted home of New York.