- George Rickey
- Column of Four Squares Excentric Gyratory III
- signed Rickey and dated 1990
- stainless steel
- 467.3 by 129.5 by 50.7cm.
- 183 3/4 by 51 by 20in.
Indianapolis, Arts Council. Cultural Development Commission and the City of Indianapolis, George Rickey: An Evolution, 2009
Albany, New York, Sculpture in the Streets, 2012
(George Rickey, The Métier, 1965)
Rickey originally trained as a painter, studying at both the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford and then at the Académie Lhote in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. It was not until after the Second World War in the late 1940s that he turned to sculpture, influenced by the prevailing climate of artistic openness and experimentation. Although he cites the work of Alexander Calder as an influence, his decision to work with kinetic sculptures and make the study of movement his focus, had more instinctive origins: ‘I had always been mechanically inclined even when I was a painter, and as a painter I think this part of my experience and interest was not exploited. I think that even before the war I had begun to be quite interested in some of the more mechanical, geometrical, mathematical aspects of twentieth century art […]. And I remember while I was still in the service, where I was a kind of mechanic - instructor in mechanical things, and had a shop available, tools and so on - making constructions involving movement […]. I never actively turned my back on painting, I didn't give it up, it's just that these other activities became more and more important. I began almost at once working with movement’ (George Rickey in an interview with Joseph Trovato, 17th July 1965 at the artist's home, in East Chatham, New York, for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Project).
In the precarious vertical alignment of the squares and their unpredictable movement, Column of Four Squares Excentric Gyratory III creates a strong sense of physical instability and unrest. The fundamental element of chance in the work’s construction and articulation is reminiscent of Dada experiments with spontaneity and the irrational, and especially of Jean Arp’s collages, created by scattering torn rectangular pieces of paper onto a paper support. The spontaneity of its movement responds to a natural, intuitive impulse; although Rickey adopts a mechanical, abstract aesthetic the work retains naturalness in its responses, moving with the wind in the same way that plants or clouds might. Rickey worked all the planes of stainless steel with an angle grinder, eroding the shiny surface of the steel with broad textural swathes. These ground surfaces, which correspond to the gestural painting of Abstract Expressionism, reflect the light, but not the environment. Rickey explains: ‘I do want the surface to be sensitive to light, but the grinding is random, it does not bear any significance and does not cause an enlargement of the plane, neither colourfulness’ (quoted in Rickey (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Utermann, Dortmund, 1994, p. 73)
Discussing this group of works, the artist’s son Philip Rickey wrote about them in terms of dance, describing how they: 'revolve and sweep up and down, bowing, then stopping, like a partner going all the way round. Within the sculpture's constructed limits the dance is random, fluid, unpredictable, and controlled. With their gyratory rotations around the support stem, this creates beautiful, fluid movements' (P. Rickey, quoted in George Rickey: Sculpture from the Estate (exhibition catalogue), Marlborough Fine Art, London, 2017).