Illinois State Museum

L. Brent Kington: Mythic Metalsmith


The Icarus Series

In the early 1980s, Kington created the Icarus series, several sculptures of which are featured in this exhibition. The Icarus pieces pivot in a smooth, almost swooping fashion as if in flight, allowing the viewer to consider the lyrical gesture of its movement. With these works, Kington reversed the placement of the kinetic mechanism by placing the ball for rotation into a concave retainer (indent) on the base stem. He also concentrated on the treatment of the surfaces by painting the Icarus pieces as though painting canvas.

Inspired by ethnic tribal masks, Kington wanted more information available on the surface of these works, sometimes portraying two sets of eyes on a single face. In particular, Kington explored painted surfaces using medieval blues, reds and yellows. At times he used abrasives to cut back through to the iron or steel surface, creating wonderful patinas reminiscent of those on ancient artefacts. The Icarus series, which focused on ideas of flight in combination with mythical or spiritual qualities, served as a segue for Kington to pursue an interest in ritual objects.

Crosiers, Spires and Crescents

After making kinetic pieces for over 14 years, Kington began a series of static pieces, crosiers, spires, and crescents. The Crosier series allowed Kington to change from a horizontal axis to a vertical axis. Historically, a crosier is an ecclesiastical ornament or staff conferred on bishops, abbots, or archbishops to signify church rank. As evident in Crosier, 1993, or Crosier, 1992, Kington conveys a spiritual quality through the upward gesture of perceived yearning, upward pose. Kington's crosiers are tall and thin with an inference to a human-like quality in shape. With Crosier, 1990, a spiritual quality as well as a reference to flight is apparent with the presence of wing-like shapes attached as part of the body. The use of color on the textured exterior invites a closer assessment of its surface.

Standing before Spire, 2006, in the presence of this tall, thin elongated body of iron tapering towards the sky and balancing on an oak base, one senses that it quietly owns the aura of the space around it. Kington's Spires suggest a sense of jurisdiction or territory even as they reach upward in a celestial and hopeful way.

Kington's crescents are essentially the female form of his spires. The crescents that balance atop the spires serve as a reference to the lunar symbolism in female deities. Like the crosiers, the spires and crescents exude a reverent quality that commands the space around them.

Untitled, 1993 (coiled, forged and hammered copper spire) and Untitled, 1993 (coiled, forged steel spire) continue to explore a sense of implied motion through the spiritual and lyrical qualities evident in the work. The painted and patinated qualities of the surfaces are especially rich with texture. They draw us in to closer visual investigation.

icarus image

Click the image to see slideshow of the Icarus Series.


spire image

Spire, 2006
Click on image to see Spires, Crosiers, and Crescents Slideshow.