Red Grooms

(b. 1937)

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(1937– ).

Sculptor, painter, installation artist, filmmaker, and printmaker. An eager participant in late 1950s happenings, in the 1960s he developed high-spirited, mixed-media environmental sculpture on an enormous scale. In these “sculpto-pictoramas,” as he has called them, multiple, life-size, cartoonish figures inhabit sharply observed localities, usually areas of New York. Related to pop art, his zany work often carries a sarcastic edge but not at the expense of good-natured hilarity. It also plays on nostalgia that stems from the artist's evident affection for his acutely rendered subjects, as befits an admirer of Edward Hopper's paintings. Born in Nashville, Charles Roger Grooms left Peabody College there to enroll in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a year. He then decamped for New York to continue his studies at the New School for Social Research (now New School). He also attended Hans Hofmann's summer school in Provincetown. In the late 1950s, along with Allan Kaprow, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and others, he pioneered the creation of happenings. The experience he gained with sets, costumes, characterization, and theatrical effects opened the way to subsequent paintings, constructions, mixed-media works, and eventually the characteristic installations. In 1962 he made the first of a dozen experimental films, some in collaboration with Rudy Burckhardt. In the mid-1960s he first realized large-scale constructed assemblages in his idiosyncratic, detailed, comic-book style. He intended his best-known installation, Ruckus Manhattan (1975–76), as a novelistic survey of the teeming island. A huge conglomeration of New York City landmarks, peopled with characteristic types, its World Trade Center stood some thirty feet tall. In the production of this and other large installations, he acknowledged his assistants and technicians under the rubric of the Ruckus Construction Company. Throughout his career, Grooms's graphic work has sustained the high-energy, expressionistic style of his sculptures in prolific numbers of color lithographs, drawings, and watercolors. Grooms was married to a significant Ruckus collaborator, Mimi Gross, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Subjects: Art.

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