George Rhoads

George Rhoads' Biography

George Rhoads, a painter, sculptor, and one of the first American origami masters, was born in Chicago. He is best known for the large audiokinetic sculptures that attract and engage people throughout the world. Balls roll and percussion devices clatter and chime in airports, hospitals, art museums, science museums, shopping centers and other public places.

Rhoads, educated at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Art Institute, was obsessed with drawing at a very early age. He got a thorough education in drawing and painting in art classes as a child and in later formal schooling.

William Steig, in Eric Protter's book, "Painters on Painting" (Grosset and Dunlap, 1963) said of Rhoads' painting, "George Rhoads is a 'visionary' painter. He uses images not to tell us something about his visual sensations, about the way his eye responds to seen objects, or to tell us something exclusively about himself, about his personality, as the action painters seem to do; He presents us with a way of viewing and of imagining, that is, of thinking about and of dealing emotionally with 'reality'. . . I think it is art of a high order."

During the 1960s Rhoads' paintings were sold through the Terry Dintenfass gallery and the ACA gallery in New York City. His initial success was in an expressionist view of the big city. He then turned to painting in the tradition of the Renaissance masters and sold many of these, including very popular trompe l'oeil paintings. He also painted a series of scenes from American history and folklore which he sold mostly in Washington DC. It was during this period that he began to make copper kinetic fountains and rolling ball sculptures. Rhoads moved to the Finger Lakes area in 1970, where he earned his living from painting, sculpture and fountains. In the 1970s and 80s commissions for sculpture increased. His first large public art commission, in 1982, was for the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, which is still enjoyed by travelers waiting for their buses.

Besides painting, Rhoads has spent the last 30 years designing rolling ball machines and wind sculptures for public and private places. "They embody almost every basic element of machinery, combined in a bewildering variety of ways. There is a level of genius behind inventing complex mechanisms; that's what George has," says James Seawright, technological artist and director of the Visual Art program at Princeton University. In his sculptures Rhoads strives to make his mechanisms easy to understand in order to demystify technology. His machines have no use other than to engage people in their play. He sees himself as the prophet of the maturity of the industrial age, a time in which the upheaval and human suffering brought about by the industrial revolution will have subsided, and, for machines as well as people, there will be no distinction between work and play.

Rhoads lives in Ithaca,NY and LaQuinta, CA continues to design ball machines and paint. Creative Machines, a small group of master-welders and artists, fabricates the sculptures from his designs and installs them.