He keeps the ball rolling

George Rhoads describes his sculptures as ``little dramas'' that surprise and entrance the viewer with workings that are fully comprehensible - if you stick around long enough. ``I think one of the appeals is that they demystify technology,'' he says.

``I want to bring out what is inherently interesting in mechanical things.''

How does he do it?

Where do Mr. Rhoads's ideas for sculptures come from?

That's the question that dogs him. Acknowledging the influence of French-born kineticist Jean Tinguely, he says some are variations on previous designs. Other ideas come into his head ``full blown.''

Still others evolve from a collaboration between him and his team of seven fabricators at Rock Stream Studios, in Mecklenburg, N.Y., where Rhoads's sculptures are actually built.

``Rhoads is often compared to Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist, who drew cause-and-effect scenes,'' comments Rock Stream's owner, Robert McGuire.

``The difference,'' says Mr. McGuire, ``is that nobody ever built a Goldberg, whereas all of Rhoads's pieces work.''

That they do work sometimes depends on McGuire and his welders' devising what Rhoads calls ``elegant solutions'' to problems in his designs.

At full capacity, Rock Stream Studios produces three pieces roughly the size of ``Archimedean Excogitation'' (see photo at right) each year. Prices start at $125,000.

Those now under way are headed for the Micronesia Shopping Center on Guam; an urban renewal project in Harrisburg, Pa., called Strawberry Square; and the Ontario Science Center in Toronto.

In addition, the studio builds 16 or so smaller pieces that sell to private collec tors and corporate buyers through galleries in New York; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Lexington, Mass. Prices range from $6,000 to $20,000.

Among them are Rhoads's latest creations called ``Lunaticks.'' (``I'm variable. My interests change,'' he says.)

These wall pieces, measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 2 inches, use more than 100 clock motors, rotating at minutely varying speeds, to create an ever-moving collage of multicolored, two-dimensional sculptural shapes.

``All urban places need animation, character, vitality, humor - combinations of these - that enrich people's experience in being there,'' says Peter Chermayeff of Cambridge Seven Associates, Cambridge, Mass.

Mr. Chermayeff, a noted designer, is coordinating design architect for the remodeling of Terminal C at Boston's Logan Airport.

``George Rhoads is an artist who understands this,'' Chermayeff continues. ``Not only does he create an object that people find attractive, but he is someone who can create a `living' thing that draws people into its own ever-changing behaviors. ``This is a rare gift.''

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