Born Charles Rogers Grooms in Nashville, Tennessee, the red-headed artist Red Grooms attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the New School for Social Research, and the Hans Hofmann School on Cape Cod. During the 1950s and 1960s, Grooms participated in happenings with fellow New York artists Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and Jim Dine. Their nonverbal, theatrical presentations often required constructed sets; Grooms' interest in both performance and setting has continued in his art.
The visual energy of Grooms' paintings and sculpture engages audiences immediately. Grooms is best known for extending pop art into life-size environmental constructions. A Texas rodeo, a slice of downtown Chicago, and a New York subway car are among his large-scale "sculpto-pictoramas" peopled with cartoonlike characters. Most famous is Ruckus Manhattan, created in 1975 by Grooms and his assistants-technicians and artists-called the Ruckus Construction Company. It includes a thirty-foot-tall model of the World Trade Center glowing with lights, a fifteen-foot Statue of Liberty, and a swaying Brooklyn Bridge.
In addition to environments, Grooms has also produced films and made prints, bronze sculptures, and three-dimensional paper "portraits." Movie stars, city life, and famous artists have been his major subjects.