Born in Nashville in 1937, Red Grooms emerged in the 1960s to become one of the most important figures in the world of contemporary American art. He has captivated audiences with a creative genius that has expressed itself through a wide variety of media, including sculpture, film, drawing, and painting. With an irrepressible sense of humor, Grooms pokes fun at cultural icons in a good-natured way.
Grooms's creativity was recognized early by his parents, who enrolled him, at age ten, at the Nashville Children's Museum. He later studied with Juanita Green Williams and Joseph Van Sickle. At Hillsboro High School, Grooms studied art and worked at Lyzon Gallery.
After high school, Grooms studied fitfully at the Art Institute of Chicago, the New School of Social Research in New York City, and Peabody College in Nashville, but he never remained in the classroom more than a few months. In 1957 he went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he collaborated with a number of other young artists. There he acquired the name “Red,” a tribute to both his personality and his hair.
In 1958 Grooms moved to New York City, where he and some friends opened their own gallery. In 1960 the Reuben Gallery featured him in a one-man show, but just as he was gaining notoriety, he left for Europe, where he studied art and architecture on his own. Grooms returned to America in 1961 and soon attracted attention with his comic views of Europe and the United States, including his three dimensional City of Chicago (1967) and Ruckus Manhattan (1975).
Grooms's offbeat and good-natured humor continues to act as a counterpoint to the sometimes stuffy American cultural landscape. His works have been featured at the nation's leading museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art. Both the Tennessee State Museum (1985-86) and the Knoxville Museum of Art (1997) have featured him in major retrospective exhibitions. His recent Foxtrot Carousel (1999) in Nashville's Riverfront Park has brought his creative, playful work to a broad audience of Tennesseans and visitors.