George Rickey, Diptych – The Seasons, 1956
Stainless steel and polychrome
February 18 – March 20, 2010
Marlborough Gallery announces that a major exhibition of works by George Rickey will open at Marlborough Chelsea, 545 West 25th Street, on February 18 and continue through March 20, 2010. Twenty-four important indoor and outdoor works from Rickey’s personal collection and now held by the George Rickey Estate will be exhibited in the first floor gallery.
George Rickey is internationally regarded as among the most inventive and influential sculptors of the twentieth century. His iconic kinetic works were the outgrowth of experiments with wire and metal that began during his service in World War II. By the late 1950s and 1960s he reduced sculptural forms to simple, geometric shapes such as rectangles, trapezoids, cubes, and lines and largely limited his materials to stainless steel, creating a body of work that is a mesmerizing combination of minimalism and movement.
Important Works from the Estate will focus on Rickey’s sculptural exploration of light, line and shadow as effected by the changing air currents, wind and other natural phenomena; and will feature rare, unique works including the stainless steel and polychrome Diptych – The Seasons (14 x 55 x 22 • in.), 1956, Personage (98 x 20 x 39 in.), 1958 and Harlequin (78 x 25 x 25 in.), 1958, all of which were foundational in the development of Ricky’s kinetic oeuvre. Additionally Two Lines Vertical (20 • x 3 • x 2 in.), 1965, will be shown on the outdoor sculpture terrace at Marlborough on 57th Street. Two Lines Vertical was created by Rickey for his personal collection following the exhibition of the earlier but similar work Two Lines Temporal, 1964, at Documenta III in 1964 which established Rickey’s international reputation. Two Lines Temporal has been in The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection since 1964.
Whether in columns, clusters, lines, or suspended shimmering planes, Rickey’s sculptures capture the expressive moment of the intersection of material form, light and movement in space. As art critic Alexandra Anderson-Spivy comments in the catalog essay: “His works mesmerize viewers even when they are still. But these fluid geometric constructions are born to move and they partner best with natural forces. Rickey often declared that he aimed ‘to make things [that are] as contemporary as the weather report,’ And gentle winds and changing weather usually are his sculptures’ greatest friends. The artist never ceased to explore the possibilities offered by the symbiotic relationship between his sculpture and the physical laws of natural motion, chance and light. ”
George Rickey was born on June 6, 1907, in South Bend, Indiana. In 1913 the family moved to Scotland, where his father, an engineer for the Singer Sewing Machine Company, had been transferred. While studying modern history at Oxford, Mr. Rickey also took courses in painting and drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. After graduation, he went to Paris to study art at the Académie L’hôte and at the Académie Moderne, where he worked under the Modernist painters Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant.
Rickey served in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He was assigned to work with engineers in a machine shop to improve aircraft weaponry, an experience that reawakened earlier interests in science and technology. After the war, he resumed his peripatetic teaching career. A year studying Bauhaus teaching methods at the Chicago Institute of Design in the late 1940s was decisive; for it was there that he seriously began to consider the idea of bringing together geometric form and movement. In 1949, while working as an associate professor at Indiana University, he made his first kinetic sculpture using window glass.
In 1960 Rickey moved to East Chatham, N.Y., which remained his home base until the end of his life. He retired from teaching in 1966 after five years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., but continued to make sculpture and to travel incessantly. To keep up with his many public commissions and exhibitions, he maintained studios in Berlin and in Santa Barbara, California. Rickey’s last sculpture — his tallest, at 57 feet 1 inch – was installed at the Hyogo Museum in Japan in 2002.
Rickey received Honorary Doctorate degrees from nine institutions and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974 and received the Gold Medal for Sculpture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995.