George Rickey

Born in Indiana and raised in Scotland, George Rickey’s early life and career was nothing if not peripatetic. He studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford, drawing at the Ruskin School, and finally painting in Paris at André Lhote's academy and at the Académie Moderne with Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. Rickey returned to the United States in 1930 and embarked on a career as a painter and muralist before serving in the Army Air-corps during WWII where, serendipitously, he discovered his natural aptitude for mechanics. His military service marked a watershed in his artistic career, setting him on a new and exciting course toward kinetic sculpture.

The gyroscopes on B-29 gunnery sights unearthed many childhood memories for Rickey, from the knife edge gimbal on his family’s yacht in Scotland to the mechanics of a pendulum in his grandfather’s clock-making shop. Rickey began utilizing his free time in the Army workshop to construct Calder-esque mobiles and small “machines” and, over time, the inspiration for his experiments grew to include the movement of flowers, clouds, the stars and the wind. Intrigued by engineering and mechanics, he soon devoted himself to exploring motion through sculpture, creating dynamic works out of basic geometric shapes like triangles, circles, and rectangles.

Rickey’s resulting kinetic creations may appear basic but their simplicity belies an understated complexity and poeticism. They are meant to respond to the wind current or air movement in their environment; the relationship of the parts remains the same but their interaction is ever-changing. The artist himself explained his oeuvre as “art that you have to wait for…the works are able to oscillate gracefully through an infinite number of compositional iterations, engaging all aspects of the natural world around them—wind, light, rain, fog, or the lack thereof.” Rickey’s legacy lives on through the George Rickey Foundation and his work is in the permanent collections of over 150 museums across the globe.

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