The major Alexander Calder exhibition has just finished at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. You may be interested to learn about a contemporary and friend of his who is exhibiting at the Axel Vervoordt Gallery in Wijnegem, near Antwerp.
Sculptor George Rickey met Calder in 1952, and also wrote about his work as a critic. However, Rickey’s oeuvre can be seen as a quest to add where Calder’s formal language left off, using more industrial materials as a reference to constructivism. In his work the materials had to speak for themselves, without the addition of colour. What both artists did share, however, was a passionate interest in the unpredictable influence of wind, and works of art that only reveal their true nature after some time. “I think it’s important to make art that you have to wait for,” Rickey said.
The Axel Vervoordt Gallery is showing Rickey’s kinetic works covering several decades, from 1958 to 1993, culminating in the work Peristyle II, which is now in the gallery’s garden, having previously been shown at Musée d’Art Contemporain Montréal, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Staempfli Gallery, among others. It was also shown at the Indiana University Art Museum in 1970 in an exhibition with Isamu Noguchi and David Smith. Other works in the exhibition also have a fascinating history, including those at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
Despite this history, it is remarkable that there are no museums in Belgium that have collected Rickey’s work, in contrast to the considerable representation in museum collections in neighbouring countries: in the Netherlands, for example, there are the Stedelijk Museum, Kröller-Müller and the sculpture garden of Voorlinden where one of his works is on display, as well as the two well-known works in Rotterdam and the installation in the park of Schiedam. With this show, the gallery wants to once again underline Rickey’s activities in these areas, as can be read in the exhibition essay.
It’s the artist’s debut exhibition with the gallery and includes a selection of Rickey’s precisely calibrated kinetic sculptures, which he referred to as “useless machines”. Featuring one outdoor sculpture from 1966 and eight works installed in the Terrace Gallery, the sculptures are activated by the invisible power of the air, an often unpredictable yet astonishing natural force. Just like the wind animates the landscape, the hand of the artist is revealed when the sculptures are set in motion, revealing the beauty of light, form, and composition. The sculptures invite viewers to pause, as their awareness increases of the objects in (suspended) motion, a heightened sensibility that alerts the eye to focus on time, tension, and the work’s true nature.
Three notions are key to Rickey’s oeuvre, which he built during a five-decade sculptural career. Following an initial twenty-year career as a painter, he first started making sculptures in his mid-forties, wanting to capture a world in itself. The run-up to those first sculptures is just as interesting as their development itself. Secondly, he played an essential role in the artistic eco-system with his work as a teacher, critic, and curator. Lastly, that considerable network consisted of artists associated with ZERO and Nul, which is only an indication of the importance of his activities and interventions in Europe, and more specifically North Rhine-Westphalia.
The exhibition continues until 16th July.