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The McNay Mounts a Major Retrospective of the Kinetic Sculptures of George Rickey

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- The McNay celebrates the achievements of George Rickey, an artist who helped make movement a central concern in modern sculpture, through January 11, 2009.

Located both inside and outside of the new Jane & Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions, George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective brings together nearly 50 kinetic (moving) sculptures, ranging from “Crucifera III” (1964), a six-foot wide starburst of tiny steel squares, to “Six Random Lines Excentric II” (1992), a tall, stainless steel sculpture with blade-like arms that whiplash or swing slowly, depending on the wind.

Organized by art historian Lucinda H. Gedeon, the Executive Director of the Vero Beach Museum of Art, George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective debuted at the Florida museum last spring.

“This retrospective is long overdue,” says William J. Chiego, Director of the McNay, who notes that it has been almost 30 years since the last comprehensive gathering of works by the artist was seen at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

“I am thrilled that this is the first touring exhibition to be showcased in the new Stieren Center, which was designed to host important shows like this, one that otherwise might bypass San Antonio altogether,” noted Dr. Chiego. “This retrospective also provides a stimulating starting point from which our visitors may consider works by Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Tony Smith and other modernists, which are on view as well in and around the Stieren.”

Drawn from public and private collections, the 47 sculptures in George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective demonstrate Rickey’s expressive use of movement and the relationship of his work with the natural world. Taken together, chronologically, the works illustrate how the artist became more ambitious in scale and technique by the mid 1960s and 1970s. Large-scale works, some as high as 34 feet and intended for the outdoors, will be installed in the sculpture garden of the Stieren Center. There, as the wind moves, so will the geometric forms, creating the kind of poetry of motion that the artist sought for the viewer. “There is a sense of balance and a sense of the romantic in Rickey’s work, as if the artist were moved by the forces of nature and the elegance of pure form,” says Dr. Chiego.

Over the course of this career-long retrospective, the viewer gleans something of Rickey’s delight in destabilizing otherwise stable geometric forms. In “Cluster of Four Cubes” (1991), a tree-like sculpture of brushed steel cubes perched askew on thin steel branches, while in other sculptures long-tapered blades zigzag, stacks and slabs wobble, and circles and shell-like forms spin. And, for Rickey, movement wasn’t enough: the exhibition demonstrates how he sought for dramatic, sometimes excruciating, tension as well. In “Two Red Lines” (1963-1975), as well as in the majority of sculptures on view in the exhibition, moving parts almost collide, their narrow escape inevitably producing a gasp from the viewer.

Finally, from rotors to pendula to “point gimbals” (two rings mounted on axis, at right angles, to stabilize an object), George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective presents a variety of mechanical devices unusual in art and seldom seen in an art museum.

George Rickey was born in 1907 in South Bend, Indiana, the son of an engineer and the grandson of a clockmaker. Having moved to Scotland with his family at age 6, Rickey was educated in England and France and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with a degree in history. His interest in things mechanical was heightened during his wartime work in aircraft and gunnery systems research and maintenance.

Trained originally as a painter, George Rickey turned his attention to kinetic sculpture in 1950: it became his lifelong passion. In 1964, his kinetic work Two Lines Temporal was featured at Documenta III, a significant endorsement of his vision by the leading arbiters of his day. His work is included in prominent museum and private collections worldwide. George Rickey remained an active artist until his death in 2002 at 95 years of age.

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