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Public Art Conservation, George Rickey Sculpture Conservation:

Conservators Jim Gwinner and Christina L. Simms recently traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to perform a minor conservation treatment, but a major relocation of a kinetic sculpture by the artist George Rickey. The stainless steel work of art, Two Rectangles Excentric, 1976 features two large rectangles, affixed on either side of a large u-shaped post. Like many of Rickey’s kinetic works, certain elements of the sculpture gracefully spins and rotates with the wind.

Though the outdoor sculpture was originally commissioned by the General Services Administration, it was on loan to the Honolulu Academy of Arts for the last six years, and installed in front of the Honolulu Museum of Art. After this period, the sculpture was to be returned to its original location at the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building and US Courthouse. Deinstallation required a crane and a great deal of coordination to ensure the moving, fragile components were not damaged. The sculpture was treated while it was deinstalled since minor corrosion developed on the metal surface, likely in part due to the warm, humid climate.

McKay Lodge Conservation has treated a number of George Rickey sculptures, most recently, Triple L, Excentric Gyratory, Gyratory, III which was treated and reinstalled in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. In 2016, Senior Conservator of Sculpture, Thomas Podnar, also visited the studio of the late artist.

Rickey was born in 1907 in South Bend Indiana, moving to Scotland with his family several years later. He spent his adult life studying and teaching art. Despite a focus in paintings, eventually Rickey turned to fabricating kinetic sculpture, arguably mastering the ordered and fluid movements of the shapes he created. He developed his approach, showing his first sculpture in 1951 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and continued to produce artwork well into the 1990s. Rickey passed in 2002.

The simple shapes, but complex movement of Two Rectangles Excentric is typical of many George Rickey sculptures.

In 2018, the stainless steel sculpture only required a minor treatment since it had treated been several years earlier. The conservation sculpture treatment was completed by applying a mild acid with abrasive pads to the metal surface. The surface was then neutralized with water, and areas were retreated as needed to further reduce the corrosion. After the treatment, the sculpture was then placed onto a flat bed truck and transported to its final destination. A crane was used again to install the post which was followed by each rectangular element until installation was complete.

McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory, Inc. would like to extend a special thank you to the staff of the Honolulu Museum of Art and Island Mini Crane for their help in completing this project, and, of course, their “Aloha” spirit.

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