Rickey sculptures may replace Booker art

November 20, 2008
For its next major public exhibition, the Arts Council of Indianapolis plans to bring the moving, geometric sculpture of the late George Rickey.

Rickey's time in Indiana played a key role in developing the tall, sweeping sculptures that won him acclaim in the 1960s. He was born in 1907 in South Bend, but his father, a Singer Sewing Machine Co. engineer, was transferred to Scotland six years later.

Rickey made his first kinetic piece while teaching at Indiana University in 1949. Through a friendship with the abstract expressionist David Smith, who also taught at IU from 1954-55, Rickey learned how to work with metal on a large scale.

Rickey died in 2002 at age 95. The United Kingdom's Independent called him a pioneer of kinetic sculpture and noted that he created moving forms until the year before his death.

Mindy Taylor Ross, public art director for the Arts Council, has disclosed Rickey's name to the Cultural Development Commission, which will pay to bring the work here. Ross declined to go into detail about the exhibition because no contract has been signed.

However, Ross said installation will begin on April 4, three days after Chakaia Booker's imposing, recycled-tire sculptures leave town.

One of Rickey's sons, Philip Rickey of St. Paul, Minn., confirmed that he is working with Ross. He declined to speak further about the project.

The public art displays started in 2005 with an exhibition of 25 brass sculptures by Tom Otterness. The large works of bulbous figures and animals had a lighthearted feel but addressed heavier themes, such as greed.

In 2006, the city brought in an exhibition by Julian Opie. His works included enormous vinyl creations of brightly garbed, simplified figures playing guitar and LED displays featuring stick-figure-like people walking and dancing.

This is the first time the exhibition will feature a deceased artist.

Rickey carved a niche that set him apart from the well-known mobile creator Alexander Calder and Rickey's minimalist peers. New York Times obituary writer Ken Johnson notes that Rickey's sculptures took streamlined, machine-like forms, but their movements - prompted by the slightest breeze - fascinated audiences. He won several public commissions.

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 committed $250,000 for the Rickey exhibit, but the final price tag has not been disclosed.

"It's something many people will appreciate, particularly people who don't have any familiarity with art in general - they're interesting engineering pieces," said commission Chairman Ted Boehm.

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

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