In this image, he arms Elvis with his trademark flashy apparel and accompanying guitar, but a slightly closer observation will yield several other components of Elvis’s iconographic ensemble—the lip curl, the slick, combed-back hair, the omnipresent Cadillac, Graceland, and the stylized stage posture. One of the famous gates of Graceland is swung open behind the entertainer while a woman in a red dress and black high heels observes the singer from the porch of the mansion.
Red Grooms is to American art as Mark Twain is to American writing; he is the foremost humorist in his discipline. He is also a prolific artist who works in many media.
Warren Perry, curator of “One Life: Echoes of Elvis”, recently discussed Elvis Presley and his portrait by Red Grooms. “One Life: Echoes of Elvis” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery through August 29, 2010.
Listen to Warren Perry's Face-to-Face talk on Elvis Presley (23:13)
Face-to-Face occurs every Thursday evening at the National Portrait Gallery. The next talk is tomorrow (April 8), when curator Ann Shumard speaks about Lena Horne. The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.
Elvis Presley / Lithograph, 1987 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / © 2010 Red Grooms / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Article by Warren Perry, National Portrait Gallery