Ruckus Manhattan, 1975–76
88 Pine Street

This site is included in LMCC’Creative Insider’s Guide to Lower Manhattan, sponsored by Launch LM.

Ruckus Manhattan was a zany sculptural reimagining of New York City produced over the course of a year by Red Grooms, in close collaboration with his wife Mimi Gross Grooms and the “Ruckus Construction Co.” team of artists, mechanics, and construction workers. Grooms described this idiosyncratic multimedia work in terms of a “sculpto-picto-rama”; with Ruckus Manhattan, the Ruckus Construction Co. recreated New York City’s urban environment through cartoonish yet skilled sculptures that displayed the aesthetic of classroom projects but were made with the craftsmanship of world-class artisans. The immersive work occupied the ground level on 88 Pine Street, a cavernous space 80 feet square and 30 feet tall that Ruckus Construction Co. filled to the brim. Sponsored and produced by Creative Time, Ruckus Manhattan garnered widespread interest and acclaim, and was seen by more than 50,000 visitors over the course of the 46 days it was on view in Lower Manhattan.

Red Grooms has been creating multimedia artworks for over a half-century in New York City. His practice spans early “Happenings” and the formative American Pop Art movement, yet has consistently retained a uniquely off-kilter aesthetic. Grooms’ immersive environments evoke commonplace occurrences and locales, rendered in a characteristically hyperbolic manner. With his referential yet askew sculptural practice, Grooms closely details our everyday environs while turning these objects on their head with artistic liberty.

For Ruckus Manhattan, Ruckus Construction Co. combined architectural detail and a slapstick sense of humor, creating constructions that evoked the layered psychic dimensions of many of New York City’s best-known sites. The frenetic installation of sculptural objects crafted out of papier-mâché, wood, plastic, fiberglass, and celastic – a quick-drying fabric ideal for Grooms’ creations – included the Brooklyn Bridge, the Woolworth Building, the World Trade Center, Chinatown, and the iconic NYC subway. Dame of the Narrows, Grooms’ sculptural reconstruction of the Staten Island Ferry from Ruckus Manhattan, is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Despite the vast scale of Ruckus Manhattan, it was by reveling in the small, quirky details that one came to fully appreciate the accomplishment of Grooms’ best-known work. Hundreds of cartoonish figures populated the installation, each making an individual fashion statement or fashion faux pas in characteristic New York style. Seagulls soared over the Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty was iconoclastically clad in red platform pumps, while customers crowded newsstands and passengers were stuffed into graffiti-covered subway cars. As if looking into a newspaper comic strip, the detailed vignettes of Ruckus Manhattan offered a brief, artistic glimpse into the constant commotion and inspiring ruckus of our beloved urban metropolis.

Alex Fialho


Image Credit:
Red Grooms
Ruckus Manhattan, 1975
Courtesy of Creative Time
© 2015 Red Grooms / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York