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UPDATE: Rickey was safe move for arts guru

November 20, 2008
Rather than further test Indianapolis' tolerance for edginess, public art guru Mindy Taylor Ross is taking a different tack in 2009 by bringing in the widely known kinetic sculpture of the late George Rickey.

Installation of an untold number of Rickey sculptures will begin on April 4, said Ross, public art director for the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Ross revealed Rickey's name in a meeting yesterday with the Cultural Development Commission, which is putting about $250,000 toward its fourth, and possibly final, public art exhibition. Because a contract hasn't been signed, Ross declined to give further details about the project.

Rickey's son, Philip Rickey in St. Paul, Minn., confirmed that he's working on a project here, but also declined to elaborate.

Ted Boehm, chairman of the Cultural Development Commission, said he's excited about the 2009 exhibit. "It's something many people will appreciate, particularly people who don't have any familiarity with art in general - they're interesting engineering pieces."

Rickey, who died in 2002, at age 95, is known for making tall, streamlined sculptures from stainless steel that can be moved by the slightest breeze. He was born in South Bend, raised in Scotland, and taught at several colleges in the United States, including Indiana University.

IU is where, in 1949, he began making small sculptures with panes of glass, framed in wire. Later, he worked with the abstract expressionist sculptor David Smith and learned to work with metal on a large scale.

Rickey devised various mechanisms to make his pieces move in curious ways. When he died, the UK's Independent called him a "pioneer" of kinetic sculpture and noted that he was making new moving forms until the year before his death.

The Rickey sculptures will replace "Mass Transit" by New York artist Chakaia Booker, which is on display until April 1. Ross said she thinks that after Tom Otterness' playful brass sculptures and Julian Opie's stick-figure LED displays, Indianapolis had built a tolerance that allowed at least some people to appreciate Booker's work in recycled tires. Ross said the choice of Rickey is a direct answer to a request she frequently received from members of the public.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has three of Rickey's sculptures in its collection: two small-scale works, "Tri-Circle," and "No Cybernetic Exit," and the 25-foot-tall "Two Lines Oblique Down, Version III."

The Cultural Development Commission has had access to $12.5 million in grants from the Lilly Endowment and the city's Capital Improvement Board since it was formed in 2001, and it has funded several public art projects. For 2009, the CDC does not yet have a budget, but the money for the major exhibition was already set aside.

To see images of Rickey's sculptures, click here.
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