May 21, 2017


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Lot 102: George Rickey

Lot 102: George Rickey

Two Open Rectangles Diagonal Jointed Gyratory II

Stainless steel
#1 of 3
Incised signature, date, and edition to base
124.25" (maximum height) x 45.5" (maximum width) x 15.75"
Together with book, signed and dedicated by the artist, and copy of current market value letter from Carl Schlosberg Fine Arts dated December 3, 1997, and catalogue

LAMA would like to thank the George Rickey Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Provenance: Carl Schlosberg Fine Arts, Sherman Oaks, California; Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above)
Estimate: $120,000 - $150,000
Price Realized: $112,500
Inventory Id: 25101

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George Rickey (1907—2002) was one of the foremost kinetic artists of the 20th century. Born in South Bend, Indiana, his family immigrated to Glasgow, Scotland, where Rickey spent his formative years. He pursued a diverse education, studying history at Balliol College, Oxford and enrolling in art school in Paris before returning to the United States where, funded by the GI Bill, he studied art at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts and the Chicago Institute of Design.

Rickey started out as a painter, but began making his first mobiles in 1945 while he worked as an engineer for the Army. In the 1950s he experimented with linear steel constructions, which were inspired by nature but placed a greater emphasis on the laws of physics. His inclusion in the exhibition “American Sculpture 1951” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, first brought his work to wider attention. Throughout the course of the 1960s, Rickey continued to refine the technical construction of his sculptures and evolve his aesthetic.

One of Rickey’s most significant inspirations were the Constructivists, in particular the work of Naum Gabo, whom Rickey went on to write about in his 1967 book Constructivism: Origins and Evolution. While Rickey is often considered a successor to Alexander Calder, the master of kinetic sculpture, he was more influenced by the principles of engineering than by abstract motifs. He is also distinguished from Calder by his use of multiple axes to suspend the metal components of his works, whereas his predecessor tended to employ a single, central point. Rickey found bountiful inspiration in the possibilities provided by the natural world, writing in his 1963 essay, The Morphology of Movement: A Study in Kinetic Art , that “the catalogue of natural processes that have so far been overlooked in painting and sculpture, is endless.”

In Rickey’s hands, motion becomes a visual quality, just as much as color or form. This is evident in the two remarkable stainless steel sculptures, Two Open Rectangles Diagonal Jointed Gyratory II (1997), and Two Open Triangles Leaning Gyratory III (1988). In both works, geometric forms intersect atop tall steel rods to form varying configurations of shapes. These late sculptures, with their clean stripped–back aesthetic and cool materials, may appear to be minimalist sculptures at first glance. Yet the gyratory, a term which implies circular motion, moves and turns the geometric forms precisely in order to create a constantly changing set of visual effects.

Rickey likened his sculptures to choreography, something which is underscored by the dance-like motion of these shapes. By harnessing elements from the natural world like light and wind, Rickey produces sculptures that are delicately balanced, and poised between stillness and animation. In both elegant and timeless pieces, the air around us is transformed into an artistic medium and movement becomes aesthetic.

Kinetic sculptures by George Rickey can be found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Tate Gallery, London.

Bouwhois, Jelle, and Jan Van Adichrem. Sculpture in Rotterdam . Rotterdam: 010 Uitgeverij, 2002. 188. Print. Kostelanetz, Richard. A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes . London: Routledge, 2016. 513. Print. Siegel, Jeanne. Artwords: Discourse On The '60s And '70s . 2nd ed. Cambridge: Da Capo, 1992. 145. Print. Todorov, Todor. Elemental Sculpture: Theory and Practice . Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2014. 63-64. Print. Walther, Ingo F., ed. Art of the 20th Century . Cologne: TASCHEN, 2014. 501. Print.