George Rickey: Four Lines Oblique Gyratory (1972)
The important kinetic sculpture Four Lines Oblique Gyratory by the American sculptor George Rickey marks an important accession to the contemporary art collection of the Städel Museum. Completed in 1972, the steel structure now stands in front of the museum’s main façade, eleven metres high and twelve wide and continuously shifting in the wind. Four Lines Oblique Gyratory has been generously gifted to the museum by a Frankfurt-based patron.
Gravity, equilibrium, and moments of inertia are the driving forces in Rickey’s monumental sculptures. Composed of industrially manufactured materials, they are marked visually by a reduction to simple geometric forms. The four long, tapered arms of Four Lines Oblique Gyratory move freely in space, never touching each other, their speed and direction determined by the movement of the air. The sculpture’s material properties and its specific form allow these steel arms, measuring more than 4.5 metres, to move in both slow and quick rotation. The piece’s lustrous surface reflects the light of the sun, creating an endlessly shifting play of light, while still further intensifying the sense of dynamic dissolution. In a similar way to his contemporaries Norbert Kricke and Heinz Mack, Rickey’s sculptures are marked by a technical aesthetic, but one which dissolves into a peaceful interplay with nature. Instead of motorized apparatuses, his primary formal devices are space, movement, and natural phenomena.
Rickey, who served for three years in the U.S. army, was both an engineer and an artist. His works above all deal with the kinetic potential of materials and construction, a potential firmly based on natural laws. Four Lines Oblique Gyratory falls into the tradition of Alexander Calder, but can also be seen in relation to supremacist abstraction. Rickey comes in the wake of both: for him, it is not a matter of imitating nature, but of giving it ‘room to move’.
About the artist
George Rickey is regarded as one of the most important figures in kinetic art, alongside Calder and Jean Tinguely. Born in 1907, he studied history and art at Oxford and Paris before joining the U.S. army in 1942, in which he served for three years as an engineer. At the end of the war, he returned to the visual arts, studying at New York’s Institute of Fine Arts and the Chicago Institute of Design. He died in 2002.
Rickey’s work has been shown three times at documenta in Kassel. His large-scale sculptures can be seen in numerous public spaces; in Germany, their locations include Goethe University in Frankfurt, and the plaza in front of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie.
Four Lines Oblique Gyratory, 1972
Stainless steel, ball bearings
28 x 11 x 12.19 m
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
A private gift to the museum, donated in 2016 in recognition of the achievements of Max Hollein as director of the Städel Museum between 2006 and 2016.
© VG Bild-Kunst