George Rickey was an American artist best known for his large-scale, geometric, kinetic sculptures. Made of stainless steel, many of his artworks reflect the changing surroundings and are naturally powered by air currents.
Naumkeag in Stockbridge is hosting one of the largest retrospectives of Rickey’s work in the Northeast through the fall, and Producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.
Learn more about the history of Naumkeag and how George Rickey’s work compliments the estate in a digital exclusive interview with curator Mark Wilson.
Read the Full Transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: George Rickey was an American artist best known for his large scale geometric kinetic sculptures made of stainless steel. Many of his artworks reflected the changing surroundings and were naturally powered by air currents.
Naumkeag in Stockbridge is hosting one of the largest retrospectives of Rickey’s work in the Northeast through the fall, and producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Kinetic sculpture is three dimensional art that moves. The movement can be generated by machines, people or in the case of artist George Rickey, nature.
Mark Wilson, The Trustees: Rickey saw that nature was as much an important piece of his work as the creation of the sculpture that he was doing. So, he created the piece and then nature comes in and does the rest.
Dave Fraser: There are 12 of Rickey’s large sculptures on display throughout the grounds at Naumkeag, a quintessential country estate and national historic property located in Stockbridge.
Inside are eight more sculptures and three works of art, including Ricky’s interior tabletop works, hanging pieces, artwork, and archival documents.
Mark Wilson: The George Rickey Foundation, who we’ve worked closely with, and the George Rickey estate, which are located just less than 20 miles from here in Chatham, New York. We’ve worked together.
There was a recent show in New York City on Park Avenue, a great expression of his work – and our show is following on that.
And I know there’s some more shows going on around the world, so there is a much deeper interest in his work. It’s coming around again.
Dave Fraser: Rickey was said to be among the most inventive and influential sculptors of the 20th century. His kinetic works are the outgrowth of his experiments with wire and metal that began during his service in World War II.
By the late 1950s and 60s, he had defined his sculptural forms as simple geometric shapes such as rectangles, trapezoids, cubes, and lines.
Mark Wilson: These are stainless steel boxes, some set in angles so, as they turn, they’re not knocking into each other they’re moving past each other. And inside of each box or element are counterweights of lead, and they’re placed precisely so that they influence the movement as wind comes along and the surface of the piece is a sail, much like on a boat, and it captures the wind and sets the piece into motion.
Dave Fraser: The pieces are somewhat separated across the 44-acre property, allowing visitors to see them and interact with the environment.
Each of the large scale sculptures has been placed in a way that complements the landscape, the shapes of the sculptures mimicking the shapes of the view or the building nearby.
Mark Wilson: The gardens at Naumkeag designed by Fletcher Steele from the 1920s to the 1950s are an incredible artistic expression of landscape design, and they are a perfect setting for these incredible sculptures by George Rickey.
We’re also on a hillside, and there’s always a nice, gentle breeze here, sometimes stronger, which helps to set the works in motion.
We’re looking at “Untitled Circle” from 2002. It’s the last work by George Rickey, and it is an eight foot open circle on a pivoting arm that gently rocks in the wind and frames the view. And that view through that round opening is always changing as the piece rocks back and forth.
This is “Unfolding Square” from 1994. It’s a jointed line piece. So, instead of one straight line, it’s four lines broken up – jointed. It has infinite movements.
The surface, like many of his works, are a sort of randomly polished stainless steel. So, as it moves, it captures different angles of the sun reflecting that back. It can fold down into a square, open up into a straight line.
It’s just for Rickey, one of the best expressions of this – this movement that he pioneered in his sculpture.
Dave Fraser: ViewEscapes will be on display at Naumkeag through November 1st.