Issue 57, Spring 1974
“Intruder in the hothouse” of defined artistic movements, head clown of the Ruckus World, Red Grooms was horn in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937. He studied in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with Hans Hofmann who is reputed to have called him “that cartoonist.” He was involved very early in the creation of “happenings.” But then everything he does seems to take on the improvisational, zany qualities that happenings are remembered for. One notable event in his cheerful and outrageous career was the evanescent appearance in February, 1971, of the now famous “Discount Store” on Madison Avenue and 73rd Street in an unused storefront. An entire three-dimensional scenario of frazzled customers, cash registers, canned goods, papier-mache racks of shoes crammed the space to intrigue all comers. Inspired film-animator, sculptor in every medium from cloth to decoupage, movie star (for his rendition of a monster in Rudy Burkhardt’s opus, “Lurk”), and painter. Grooms never stops making things.
These black and white ink drawings are small, but should not be thought of as asides to the large-scale sculptures and sets and paintings he is best known for. They are part of a series of illustrations for limericks. Words are unnecessary. In seemingly crude strokes, the drawings capture characters with affection for absurdities, faces, encounters, exaggerations of detail. The cartoon convention is ingenuously adapted to express sophisticated fantasies and social commentary. Grooms specializes in raw humor, discarding the traditional seriousness which is too often thought a requirement for serious art.