U. N. II


George Rickey ( American, 1907 - 2002 )

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General Description

Although George Rickey worked as a painter in his youth, as early as the 1930s he was attracted to Alexander Calder's sculpture and its incorporation of movement. After World War II, he shifted to sculpture and devoted his artistic career to experimenting with motion in sculpture. Unlike Calder's works, Rickey's sculptures do not refer to natural forms. Rather, they play with the complex possibilities of mechanical movement and technology. U.N. II is from a series of works Rickey began in the early 1950s that converts the flat plane of a painting into the three-dimensional form of sculpture. The U.N. group refers to the newly built United Nations Secretariat building in New York, while a similar "Homage to Mondrian" series refers to Mondrian's geometric abstractions.

U.N. II is a complicated construction: the whole upper frame, the "painting" so to speak, is suspended on a small black crossbar mounted on the base, which itself is composed of rectangles moving against each other. The curved bars, or rotors, mounted on the frame have individual movements of their own. Rickey was interested in indeterminate movement, where no clear pattern can be predicted by the viewer. In addition to the motion caused by air currents, a visitor's breath or movement will also cause slightly different motions. The gently modulated colors–teal, rose, aquamarine, lemon, dull crimson, sky blue–add to the shimmering richness of this abstract tapestry of motion. Rickey's sculptures are always open to the air, and endlessly varied in the relation of their moving parts.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, "American Modernism: Art and Technology," Dallas Museum of Art Bulletin, Spring/Summer 1988, 22-25.

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