Bringing formalistic grace to the mile-square of downtown Indianapolis, George Rickey: An Evolution
consists of 10 geometric, kinetic, stainless steel sculptures made from 1964 through 2000. These outdoor works were placed thoughtfully from Monument Circle to the City Market, City-County Building and over to Capital Commons Park.
The sculptures rise mainly from handcrafted poles with attached forms - squares, rectangles, triangles, circles or linear blades - that rotate on pivots, pendulums and gimbals with the aid of a slight breeze and gravity, and without the use of auxiliary motors. Motions are silent, seemingly effortless and continually changing.
Rickey is internationally known as a major 20th century artist who integrated movement with sculpture. Another is Alexander Calder, whose colorful mobiles caught Rickey's attention in the 1930s. Calder's work, brighter and more fanciful, was recognized in citywide exhibitions in Indianapolis in 1996, so it is fitting to acknowledge Rickey's connections to both art history and to Indiana. Rickey was born in South Bend in 1907 then moved to Scotland in 1913. He returned temporarily to teach at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he began creating kinetic sculpture in 1949, and continued that artistic focus until his death in 2002 at age 95.
Ultimately, public art should enrich the sites where it is viewed and vice versa. Most all pairings do within this exhibition. Appropriately placed by Monument Circle is "Annular Eclipse V" (2000), composed of two circles connected in part to the top of a pole structure. The rings rotate and overlap into patterns that may remind viewers of the central city location and bring connotations associated with circles - whether mathematical or symbolic. Located on Virginia Avenue by Washington Street is "Column of Four Squares Excentric Gyratory III, Var. II" (1990), one of Rickey's stacked geometric works. Four squares are tilted and joined at points that allow slow, lyrical sways. Across the street, the spinning V-shaped Dunkin' Donuts sign accompanies Rickey's sculpture. Nearby and scaled rightly to the streetscape is "Six Lines in a T II" (1964-'79). Edward Scissorhands-like blades drift upwards as if drawing arcs in the air and are visually connect to a backdrop of flagpoles and the steel-framed grid of windows in the Jefferson Building.
Extending from the grass of Capital Commons Park, like a rectangular robotic serpent made of stacked, cold-metal segments, is the most mesmerizing sculpture, "Breaking Column II" (1989). Beautifully organic and architectural, this work shows off the hand-polished surfaces etched with patterns that reflect light and are characteristic of Rickey's sculptures.
Rickey's materials and forms work perfectly in dialogue with our city's surroundings and - directed by the wind - these sculptures reflect a reminder that our everyday environment isn't stagnant, but filled with life.
George Rickey: An Evolution
will remain on view through Sept. 7. For information, call 317-631-3301 or, for a map of locations, go to http://paindy.org/rickey/. The Indianapolis Art Center will open the exhibition A Life in Art: Works by George Rickey
June 26, featuring a survey of 40 early artworks by Rickey and five medium-sized sculptures in its ARTSPARK. An 11th outdoor work is on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is part of the museum's permanent collection.