Featuring the art of Red Grooms
The Wood Street Galleries
601 Wood Street Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Organized by Michael Berger
Presented by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Michael Berger Gallery
Lecture by Michael Berger
Wednesday, March 29, 1995 at noon
Red Grooms is an American Horatio Alger, and the self-confidence that implies is evident in his career.
Charles Rogers Grooms grew up in Nashville, son of a clerk in the state highway department. He acquired the nickname "Red" from a fellow dishwasher in a Provincetown, Massachusetts restaurant.
Moving to Manhattan in 1957, he worked as a billboard painter and movie house usher while pursuing his gift for drawing. In 1958, he had his first solo show; produced his first portfolio of prints; put on a "performance" entitled A Play Called Fire; and turned a loft on 24th Street into a gallery space where he and a friend showed work by Alex Katz, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and others. This level of energy and enthusiasm was to continue unabated for the next 35 years.
The optimism of America post-World War II and pre-Vietnam comes across loud and clear in Red's work and is epitomized by the bright lights, big city image he chose as his favorite subject: Manhattan.
Vibrant images of the people and the city of Manhattan in all their frenetic and comic energy first brought Grooms to public attention. These characteristics were soon turned to other subjects and projects. In 1967, he developed a form of gigantic walk-in sculpture made of foam rubber and cardboard. As the artist has said, "There was a spirit of World's Fairism in the air and I think the whole concept of the sculpto-pictoramas owes a lot to that enthusiasm for big sprawling events."
In the early 1970's, he began making homages to other artists such as Rembrandt, Gauguin, and Henry Moore as a combination of hero worship, satire, and comic invention. He joined Marlborough Gallery in 1975. His show, Ruckus Manhattan at Marlborough in 1976 drew 100,000 visitors. He was given his first retrospective at The Denver Art Museum of 1985, followed by two others in 1986. In 1987, the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan presented a Red Grooms retrospective which drew over 200,000 people.