George Rickey is among the best known kinetic sculptors of all time. He created works so precisely blanaced and crafted that they move with even the slightest breeze. Born in 1907 in South Bend, India, he moved to Scotland with his family in 1913. He studied modern history at Oxford and drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. He then moved to Paris to study painting at the Académie Lhote and at the Académie Moderne.
During World War II, Rickey served in the Army Air Corps, testing computing instruments used by bomber gunners. The work required both mechanical skill and an understanding of the effects of wind and gravity on ballistics. This technical work laid the foundation for his move from painting to kinetic sculpture. Under the G.I. Bill, Rickey studied at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and from 1948-1949 attended the Institute of Design in Chicago.
In 1945, Rickey made his first mobiles which were inspired by both the history of constructivist art and by the mobiles of Alexander Calder. Rickey made his first blade sculptures, which are similar to the two pieces on display in the Cascades Garden, in the early 1960s. Valerie Fletcher in George Rickey: Kinetic Sculpture, A Retrospective says the following about the construction of his blade sculptures: “Inside the slightly widened bottom of each blade, Rickey inserted small amounts of lead, akin to those used in balancing wheels on automobiles. The amount and location of the lead weights determine the distance and speed of each blade’s swing. Rickey learned how to distribute the weight evenly, which causes each blade to move differently in the same breeze.”
Rickey received Honorary Doctorate degrees from nine institutions and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974. In 1995 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Sculpture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
George Rickey died at his home in Minnesota in 2002 at the age of 95.