Born on June 6, 1907 in South Bend, IN, George Rickey grew up outside of Glasgow, where his father worked as an executive for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Studying history at Baillol College in Oxford, he received his formal art training under Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant at the Académie Lhote and the Académie Moderne in Paris. Despite beginning as a painter, while serving in World War II for the United States, Rickey worked as mechanic for gunnery and aircraft. His time working with machinery, revived his childhood interest in mechanical systems, and he began producing simple moving sculptures after the war. Over the years, his works were exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, documenta III in Kassel, and commissioned for several public spaces around the world. The artist died at the age of 95 on July 17, 2002 in Saint Paul, MN.
George Rickey was an American artist whose Kinetic Art sculptures poeticized the medium of steel in a transformative manner, as seen in his hallmark work Breaking Columns (1989). “The object was for the pieces to perform as they could, and I wanted their movement to be slow, unhampered, deliberate—but at the same time unpredictable,” Rickey once explained. “As for shape, I wanted only the most ordinary shapes—simple, hackneyed, geometrical. I wanted whatever eloquence there was to come out of the performance of the piece—never out of the shape itself.” Movement places Rickey’s sculpture in time, in the realm of sequence and experience—by definition movement (and memory) exists in time. Perhaps it is the relentlessness of chance, now so apparent in nature, that Rickey defines in his kinetic work. His early understanding of the significance of randomness displayed a profound and prescient sensitivity to discoveries that would become the vanguard of theoretical insights late in the 20th century.
Today, his works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the San Diego Museum of Art, among others.