Naumkeag is the ideal venue for Rickey’s outdoor sculptures, designed to interact with their natural and built environments. This historic house and gardens were the former summer estate of the Choate family, who had a long standing commitment to arts and culture. Their home was built by leading American architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, and set among inventive “garden rooms” by renowned American Modernist landscape architect, Fletcher Steele.
Rickey’s sculptures have been exhibited at Naumkeag several times. Two of his iconic pieces were included in Sculpture at Naumkeag: A Celebration of Great American Sculpture (1994) and another in Sculpture at Naumkeag (1997). This special solo exhibition, ViewEscapes (on view April 22 to November 1, 2022), curated by Mark Wilson, featured twelve large-scale sculptures pictorially placed throughout the gardens, as well as six smaller sculptures and three works of arts in the house.
Naumkeag | Connecting Point | Sept. 22, 2022
George Rickey (1907-2002) was an American artist, best known for his large-scale, geometric, kinetic sculptures. Many of his artworks were designed to be seen outside, made of stainless steel that reflects its changing surroundings, and naturally powered by air currents. His work is represented in many leading museum collections worldwide and nearby Naumkeag, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; and Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA.
Rickey was born in South Bend, IN, but lived and worked much of his life just 30 miles away from Stockbridge, MA, in East Chatham, NY. His father was a mechanical engineer and his grandfather was a clockmaker, and they both encouraged his interest in engineering and design. Rickey studied painting and drawing in Oxford, Paris, and Chicago, then became an art teacher and an artist. In the 1950s, Rickey developed his signature approach to kinetic sculpture.
Kinetic sculpture is three-dimensional art that moves; the movement can be generated by machines, people, or—as with Rickey’s works—nature. Rickey was one of two famous 20th-century artists known for kinetic sculpture, the other being Alexander Calder. Taking Calder’s mobiles as his starting point, Rickey combined his artistic and engineering skills to create complex types of movement, utilizing harmonic and gyratory motion to expand the dynamic potential of kinetic art.
Rickey said that “motion, which we are all sensitive to, which we are all capable of observing without having to be taught, is a sensation that appeals to the senses just as color does. It has an equivalent of the spectrum, different kinds of types of motion. I think that one can, to a very considerable extent, isolate motion as a visual component and design with that."
1980, Stainless steel, 5’4” x 6’2", Collection George Rickey Estate
1994, Stainless steel, 18' 1 1/4" x 18", Private Collection
This piece is an ideal introduction to Rickey’s work, as it illustrates how his kinetic sculptures may look elementary, but are actually quite complex.
1992 (begun 1991), Stainless steel, 13'6" x 11'9", Collection George Rickey Estate
Rickey said his artworks were about “movement itself,” exemplified by this dynamic piece.
1994, Stainless steel, 30', Collection George Rickey Estate
This sculpture was first shown at Naumkeag the year it was made, and the single line format is typical of Rickey’s early signature work.
1972 (begun 1971), Stainless steel, 19'5" x 8'8", Collection George Rickey Foundation
c. 2002, Stainless steel, 15' x 8', Collection George Rickey Foundation
1977, Stainless steel, 7' x 22", Collection George Rickey Estate
1982, Stainless steel, 9'8" x 57" x 9", Collection George Rickey Estate
Rickey expanded his compositional repertoire from lines to other geometric shapes, including squares, circles, and triangles.
1968 (begun 1966), Stainless steel, 51" x 47”, Collection George Rickey Estate
“Nuages” is the French word for clouds, and is a notable direct reference by Rickey to natural phenomena.
1995–2004, Stainless steel, 9'1" x 46", Collection George Rickey Estate
1971, Stainless steel, 11' x 46 1/2" x 26", Collection George Rickey Estate
Some of Rickey’s pieces are correlated to their specific setting, such as this especially animated sculpture.
1968, Stainless steel and painted mild steel, 13' x 6', Collection George Rickey Foundation
The Space Churn series is one of Rickey’s rare direct references to current events in his body of work.
1996, Stainless steel, 28 3/4' x 15', Collection George Rickey Estate
This piece, a larger version of the one displayed in this pond at Naumkeag in 1996, demonstrates how Rickey manipulated movement, time, and language.
Rickey Naumkeag was developed by Lisa Beth Podos with the assistance of Amanda Duquette, Maria Lizzi, Amanda Perry, Victoria Petway, and Hilary Vlastelica.
© George Rickey Foundation, Inc.