Biography: One of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century, Red 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.