Artist: Charles Ginnever (American, b. 1931)
Materials: welded Cor-ten steel
Provenance: Purchased by the Governors State University Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts
Charles Ginnever came of age immediately after World War II. His education in the arts took him from his native California to France and Italy before he earned an MFA from Cornell University in 1959.
Icarus is one of a series of important works fabricated by Ginnever during the mid-1970s which use classical Greek sources for their titles. In the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, the two are imprisoned on an island. Daedalus fashions two sets of wings from wax and feathers so they can begin to make their escape high above the Aegean Sea. Icarus, enthralled by his newfound freedom and unwilling to acknowledge his vulnerability, ignores his father's warnings and flies too close to the sun, melting the wax and plummeting to his death. The story is a cautionary tale highlighting humankind's arrogance. It has been referenced many times by artists as varied as Pieter Brueghel, Peter Paul Rubens, and Chicago Imagist, Roger Brown.
This artwork is deceptive in its simplicity, part of a series in which Ginnever deliberately challenged the dominance of 1970s Minimalism through dramatically angled compositions emphasizing an uneasy balance of visual and physical weight. The viewer's experience of Icarus shifts continuously. From observing the two triangles' relatively flat expanse of patinated steel balanced precariously one upon the other, the viewer can shift position slightly and suddenly catch the broad back of the work, noting an angle of intersection which feels uncomfortably delicate. Ginnever challenges us to "make sense" of his idiosyncratic geometry and in the process heightens our awareness of balance and form.