Rickey was born in Indiana but moved in Scotland in 1913 and spent his childhood in Glasgow. After studying at Oxford University, he returned to America in 1930. In 1949 Rickey made a mobile sculpture and from then on made exclusively kinetic sculptures. His first sculptures were made from glass, until he began using metal (mostly stainless steel) in 1950. Early sculptures comprised of simple rod-like forms, but from 1965 he began experimenting with planes based on rectangles and cubes. Much of Rickey's work is designed to be sited outdoors as his sculptures rely on air currents to set them in motion.