Northington has given up on the protective gear that one is supposed to wear while welding. "I'm used to getting burned," he explains. Northington fires up one of his tanks, and the sparks fly as he moves the instrument along a piece of metal, spewing an acrid, burning smell like that of firecrackers. Northington tells us it's the chemicals.
"Concrete, steel and glass -- it's what you see every day in every city across the world," Northington says. But the difference between a stark skyscraper and Northington's work couldn't be more striking. Concrete blends with aged metal parts to create structures that feel invigorating and alive. Glass blocks are encased by steel squiggles that recall an era when unique ironwork decorated doors and even fire escapes.
There's an element of history in these creations as well. Northington recycles some of his structures, reusing them in different contexts to create entirely different works. Encased within a concrete circle is scrap from other sculptures, an old table bottom, pipes and an object he dismisses as "an old, bad piece." To assemble them, Northington arranges items before pouring concrete -- mixed himself in an Imer mixer -- over them, which he lets cure for the required 28 days. When we come across a pile of metal debris, Northington gestures toward it. "That'll be another one," he says.
One of them, a large, obelisklike thing that contains 8 feet of stacked glass, won't be making the trip downtown for Northington's opening on Friday, but it looks like it belongs outside. In the sunlight, the glass shimmers in a way no gallery lighting could evoke. Fortunately, one of the models for the sculpture, which Northington calls its little brother, can travel with a bit more ease.
Despite a fondness for metal shop in school, Northington worked in pen and ink for a while before finding his medium. The drawings he's made over the past few years echo the motifs in his sculpture: repetitive shapes and cross-hatching coupled with a strong graphic sense. The stippling that reappears in his drawings looks like work for the obsessive, but Northington laughs it off.
"Yeah, it takes me around 40 hours, but if you've got the time, why not?"