1907–2002, South Bend, Indiana, United States
George Rickey is an American sculptor best known for abstract kinetic sculptures, inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobiles and the geometric forms of Constructivism. Born in 1907 in South Bend, Indiana, he moved to Scotland in 1913 with his parents and sisters. Rickey studied Modern History at Balliol College and frequently visited the Ruskin School of Drawing. Following his heart, and against the advice of his father, upon graduating he spent the following year in Paris, studying at Académie L’Hote and Académie Moderne, while working as an English instructor at the Gardiner School. In Paris, he met Endicott Peabody, Rector at Groton School, Massachusetts, who offered him a job as history teacher at Groton, where he remained for three years after his return to the States in 1930.
He maintained an art studio in New York from 1934 to 1942, when he was drafted. Son of a mechanical engineer and grandson of a clockmaker, Rickey’s interest in things mechanical re-awakened during his wartime work in aircraft and gunnery systems research and maintenance. Although trained as a painter, he turned from painting to sculpture in 1949.
George Rickey is known for abstract kinetic sculptures, inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobiles and the geometric forms of Constructivism. Yet, slight variations in air currents could make the sculptures—comprised of lines, planes, rotors, volumes, and churns—oscillate or gyrate, an effect translated especially impressively in his large-scale works. For instance, passing breezes cause the stainless-steel bars to pivot 360 degrees around a central post in the enormous Two Lines up Eccentric VI (1977), forming graceful patterns against the sky. Unlike his peer in kinetic sculpture, Jean Tinguely, Rickey never used internal motors or engines to power his sculptures’ movement.
In his later years he also maintained a small studio in Santa Barbara, as well as in St. Paul, where he died on July 17, 2002.