Tango Dancers, 2005
enamel on aluminum
109 x 96 x 38 inches
Courtesy the artist and Marlborough Gallery, New York
Red Grooms could be described as Pop Art Maximalist, creating environments with bawdy and baroque visual actors that reflect the day's news. He is a visual raconteur, scouring the streets for unique or daily events. His eclectic influences range from: carnivals, vaudeville and road side attractions of 1930s and 40s America; Walt Disney, America's premier purveyor of Main Street kitsch; and theater producer and visual artist Robert Wilson, known for his visually complex meditations on time and human movement, among others. This mash-up evokes distinct reactions in the art world, which often demands serious work. Just as comedies never win best picture Oscar, works with a sly sense of humor and trenchant sense of human fallibility are perceived as being kitsch, or too populist. Yet Grooms' work is enormously popular and accessible; he is an "everyman's" artist, one who chronicles the ups and downs of life.
Grooms was part of New York's 1960s avante garde. His early Happenings were inspired by his high school football career, and with fellow artists like Claes Oldenburg, Grooms helped launch performance as a legitimate art form. Grooms founded a short-lived gallery in order to support his fellow artists, showing Oldenburg and Alex Katz in his first New York exhibition. Grooms ranged widely to create dynamic connections between his world and the larger world around him.
One of Groom's major works, Ruckus Manhattan, 1975, designed with then-wife Mimi Gross, is one of Groom's best-known sculpto-pictoramas". ** Ruckus Manhattan is a 10,000 square foot recreation of New York City, and recalls the scale model panorama of the five boroughs at the Queens Museum created for the 1964 World's Fair, but with a few twists. While the Queens Museum panorama intended to show each building in the city, Groom and Gross's Manhattan shows the precariousness of urban life, the flotsam and jetsam of the city, at a time when crime and financial ruin were a part of daily life.
Grooms' Hot Dog Vendor recalls the real-life food purveyor who is a fixture of Milwaukee's summer at Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street. His Tango Dancers is an intimate portrait of a couple enjoying the sensual touch of dance, ignoring the peeping eyes of a busy city street.
Grooms, born Charles Rogers Grooms in 1936 in Nashville, studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, moving to New York in 1956. A film about Grooms, Red Grooms: Sunflower in a Hothouse, was released in 1986. One-person shows from the past decade have been held at: Marlborough Contemporary, New York; the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Vermont; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; the Children's Museum of Manhattan, New York; Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania; the Katonah Museum of Art, New York; Galerie Patrice Triagno, Paris; the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, National Academy of Design, New York, with travel; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among dozens of others.
His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the New York Historical Society, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art and Art Institute, Chicago; the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Caracas, Venezuela; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; the Des Moines Art Center, the Cleveland Museum of Art; and the Allen memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio, among many others.
He has created 14 public commissions; illustrated books and magazines; performed live and in films between 1958 and 1984; produced his own films between 1961 and 1985; and designed numerous theatrical sets between 1958 and 1992. There have been hundreds of articles and reviews written about his works, dating back to student work in 1952.
Awards include: a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Design, New York; an Art Master Awards from American Artist Magazine, New York; a Founder's Medal, Pennsylvania Academy, The Mayor's Awards for Arts and Culture Award of Honor, New York; the Governor's Award in the Arts from the State of Tennessee; the President's Award from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; a Creative Artist Award Program Service Grant for Fimm from the New York State Council on the Arts, New York, among others.
Notes. *The term Maximalist was coined by critic and art historian Robert Pincus Witten in his 1987 book Postminimalism into Maximalism: American Art 1966-1986, describing a shift away from the stringent aesthetic ideology of Minimalism to allow for the hand-made and personal while retaining production in series. http://www.artnews.com/2018/01/28/robert-pincus-witten-historian-critic-curator-coined-post-minimalism died/