Keith Sonnier

BORN IN MAMOU, LOUISIANA 1941
LIVES AND WORKS IN BRIDGEHAMPTON, NEW YORK

Keith Sonnier radically reinvented sculpture in the late 1960s by experimenting with industrial and ephemeral materials. He was part of a distinct group of artists, including Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, and Jackie Winsor, that called previous conceptions of sculpture into question. Sonnier worked with a wide range of materials that included latex, satin, fabrics, found objects, transmitters and video. In 1968, Sonnier began creating wall sculptures using incandescent light, neon and sheer fabric. Using copper tubing as a template, Sonnier sketched lines, arches and curves that were ultimately realized in glass tubing enclosing the neon gas. The linear quality of the neon allowed Sonnier to draw in space with light and color, while the colored light interacted with the surrounding architecture.

Sonnier has been the subject of more than 150 solo exhibitions and has participated numerous group exhibitions including: When Attitude Becomes Form, Kunsthalle Bern and Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1969); Venice Biennale (1972, 1982); Documenta 5, Kassel (1972); the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1970 Annual Exhibition: Contemporary American Sculpture, and Whitney Biennial Exhibitions (1973, 1977); Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C (1989); The New Sculpture 1965–1975: Between Geometry and Gesture (1990) at the Whitney Museum, New York, which later traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Most recently, Sonnier was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York that travelled to New Orleans Museum of Art (2019).

Image: Keith Sonnier, La Niçoise, 1977/2019, glass, galvanized steel, neon wire, transformer, 83 1/2 x 167 x 11 3/4 inches, 212.1 x 424.2 x 29.8 cm © 2019 Keith Sonnier / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photograph © Caterina Verde.

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