College of Communications and Fine Arts Art Museum of the University of Memphis
Red Grooms, “Nervous City”

(Audio Commentary)

Red Grooms

American (Nashville, Tenn., 1937)

"Nervous City"


 Red Grooms installation photo

Red Grooms epitomizes the everything-goes climate of art in the 1970s. Born in Nashville where as a child he delighted in the theatricality of the Grand Ole Opry, Tennessee State Fair amusement park, movie theaters, and comic strips, Charles Grooms gravitated toward art and action, but not the action art of Jackson Pollock. Grooms' action paintings, like Pollock's, were made without preconception in bursts of physical and emotional energy, but instead of flinging paint, Grooms exuded images of people and places.

After a series of undistinguished efforts at various art schools, Grooms arrived in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1956 to study with Hans Hofmann. He soon abandoned that plan to join a freely collaborating group of young artists who decided "Red" was a more suitable name. Allan Kaprow, Lester Johnson, Mary Franks and others produced pop up performance art that Kaprow named Happenings. In 1958, several of the group moved to New York to share space and expenses. A year later Grooms moved into a loft where he opened one of the early alternative galleries and showed the work of Claes Oldenberg, Jim Dine, Bob Thompson and Alex Katz.

Happenings erupted in New York during the early 1960s. These largely spontaneous, time-based collages, occured in and used the fabric of the city—literally found places and things. Grooms participated briefly, but the idea of the city as subject and material substance and the combination of madcap optimism and anarchy were essential influences on his future work. Grooms taught at Skowhegan in 1969 and shortly there after contributed "Nervous City" to the scholarship portfolio project.



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Last Updated: 11/14/12