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: Two Up-One Down: Contrapuntal by George Warren Rickey


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Before this century, movement in art had been mostly a curiosity. Artists were content to show it in arrested form or to suggest it in skillfully contrived compositions. Not until 1913, a year after completing Nude Descending a Staircase, did Marcel Duchamp produce Mobile: Bicycle Wheel a work employing actual physical movement. Seven years later, Naum Gabo completed his motorized Kinetic Construction: Virtual Volume.The Italian Futurists, borrowing from Cubism and the multiple exposures found in the cinematograph, attempted to portray movement, but these early efforts were more conceptual than real, and it was not until Alexander Calder's first exhibition of mobiles in 1932 that kinetic art made a permanent impression. Calder's innovations have long since been accepted, and no doubt these works have enlarged our notion of art, but they have perhaps had less influence on the new generation of kinetic artists than our technological age.George Rickey has been largely responsible for the wide acceptance of the movement in this country. His pellucid articles in the early sixties were instrumental in diffusing the idea of kinetic art to a large American audience, and his creative energies have since been devoted to whole families of moving steel sculptures. Unlike Calder's mobiles which evoke organic formations such as stems and leaves, Rickey's works relate directly to mechanical forms and geometrical configurations. This is due in part to the strong influence of Constructivist theorems and attitudes.Powered by the natural flow of air currents, Two Up—One Down sways gently in unpredictable and virtually non-repetitive patterns. Rickey applies movement in a muted, constrained manner much like other artists might use color. Unlike those who rely on movement alone, Rickey subordinates the precision of mechanical movement to a natural rhythm; he methodically divorces the machine from function and allows it to move freely rather than respond to the frantic gyrations of motorized art. The slender steel needles are delicately balanced to oscillate with hypnotic grace, dividing both time and space by continuous motion.Referenced Work of Art
  1. George Rickey. American, 1907 - . Two Up—One Down, Contrapuntal, 1966. Welded steel affixed to a marble base, 89 1/2”. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Dayton, 68.14.
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Source: David Ryan, "Two Up-One Down: Contrapuntal by George Warren Rickey," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 57 (1968): 60-61.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009