Keith Sonnier

By 2 July 2019 Artists

KEITH SONNIER

KEITH SONNIER

Biography

Born in Mamou, Louisiana, in 1941, Keith Sonnier is among the first and most significant representatives of a generation of artists who pioneered a radical approach to sculpture. After graduating with a B.A. from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette in 1963 he went on to receive an M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1966, Sonnier began experimenting with industrial and ephemeral materials ranging from latex and satin, to found objects, transmitters and video. Employing previously unusual materials, Sonnier, along with his contemporaries, Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, and Jackie Winsor, called all previous concepts of sculpture into question. In 1968 he began creating wall sculptures using incandescent light and then started experimenting with neon which quickly became a defining element of his work, with the aim of giving new form to light and new meaning to the material. Using copper tubing as a template, Sonnier began sketching lines, arches and curves ultimately realized in glass tubing enclosed neon. The linear quality of this chemical element allowed him to draw in space with light and color while colored light interacted with the surrounding architecture. Sonnier often works in series, some of which he has continued to develop over the course of his career. Elements of the first experimental sculptural works are often recognizable in subsequent installations, even in architectural interventions on a monumental scale.

Among the most important: that of 2003 in New York City which transformed Gordon Bunshaft’s iconic Lever House, the temporary outdoor installation of the Neue National Galerie by Mies van der Rohe in Berlin in 2002 (BA-O-BA Berlin), Millennium 2000 conceived on the four facades of the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria and Motordom in 2004, one of the largest permanent public installations in Los Angeles, which illuminated the court of the Caltrans District 7 Building in red and blue. Keith Sonnier’s work has been exhibited in solo shows in institutions such as: NOMA, New Orleans (2019), DIA / Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton NY and Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill NY (2018), Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (2017), Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Nice (2015), BMW Museum, Munich (2012), Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge (2010), Rathausgalerie, Munich and Neue National Galerie, Berlin (2002), Kunsthaus, Bregenz and Parrish Art Museum, Southampton (1999), Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen (1993), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1989), Chrysler Museum, Norfolk (1988), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1984), MoMA PS1, New York (1983), Center Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1971), Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1970).

Sonnier took part in over 360 group exhibitions during his career. Among the ones in institutions: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2018), British Museum, London (2017), Noguchi Museum, New York (2015), Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat (2014), Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2013), Parrish Art Museum, New York (2012), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011), Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg (2004), CAPC, Bordeaux (2002), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2001), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1999), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon (1997), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Nice (1996), Drawing Center, New York (1993), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal (1992), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (1990), Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1987), National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (1984), Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1983), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1978), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1975), National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1974), Villa Borghese, Rome (1973), Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen (1971). Keith Sonnier also took part in international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (1982, 1976, 1972) and Documenta, Kassel (1972). Since February 2018, he is represented in Italy by Galleria Fumagalli in Milan which organized the solo show “Light Works, 1968 to 2017” in the very same year.

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Biography

Born in Mamou, Louisiana, in 1941, Keith Sonnier is among the first and most significant representatives of a generation of artists who pioneered a radical approach to sculpture. After graduating with a B.A. from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette in 1963 he went on to receive an M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1966, Sonnier began experimenting with industrial and ephemeral materials ranging from latex and satin, to found objects, transmitters and video. Employing previously unusual materials, Sonnier, along with his contemporaries, Eva Hesse, Barry Le Va, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, and Jackie Winsor, called all previous concepts of sculpture into question. In 1968 he began creating wall sculptures using incandescent light and then started experimenting with neon which quickly became a defining element of his work, with the aim of giving new form to light and new meaning to the material. Using copper tubing as a template, Sonnier began sketching lines, arches and curves ultimately realized in glass tubing enclosed neon. The linear quality of this chemical element allowed him to draw in space with light and color while colored light interacted with the surrounding architecture. Sonnier often works in series, some of which he has continued to develop over the course of his career. Elements of the first experimental sculptural works are often recognizable in subsequent installations, even in architectural interventions on a monumental scale.

Among the most important: that of 2003 in New York City which transformed Gordon Bunshaft’s iconic Lever House, the temporary outdoor installation of the Neue National Galerie by Mies van der Rohe in Berlin in 2002 (BA-O-BA Berlin), Millennium 2000 conceived on the four facades of the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria and Motordom in 2004, one of the largest permanent public installations in Los Angeles, which illuminated the court of the Caltrans District 7 Building in red and blue. Keith Sonnier’s work has been exhibited in solo shows in institutions such as: NOMA, New Orleans (2019), DIA / Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton NY and Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill NY (2018), Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (2017), Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Nice (2015), BMW Museum, Munich (2012), Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge (2010), Rathausgalerie, Munich and Neue National Galerie, Berlin (2002), Kunsthaus, Bregenz and Parrish Art Museum, Southampton (1999), Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen (1993), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1989), Chrysler Museum, Norfolk (1988), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1984), MoMA PS1, New York (1983), Center Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1971), Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1970).

Sonnier took part in over 360 group exhibitions during his career. Among the ones in institutions: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2018), British Museum, London (2017), Noguchi Museum, New York (2015), Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat (2014), Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2013), Parrish Art Museum, New York (2012), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011), Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg (2004), CAPC, Bordeaux (2002), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2001), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1999), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon (1997), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Nice (1996), Drawing Center, New York (1993), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal (1992), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (1990), Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1987), National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (1984), Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1983), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1978), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1975), National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (1974), Villa Borghese, Rome (1973), Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen (1971). Keith Sonnier also took part in international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (1982, 1976, 1972) and Documenta, Kassel (1972). Since February 2018, he is represented in Italy by Galleria Fumagalli in Milan which organized the solo show “Light Works, 1968 to 2017” in the very same year.

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Works

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968. Glass, neon, etched glass, transformer and electrical wire, 151x152x30 cm

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968. Glass, neon, etched glass

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968
Glass, neon, etched glass, transformer and electrical wire, 151x152x30 cm
Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970. Argon and neon tubes, porcelain fixtures, incandescent bulbs, transformer, 244x147x23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970. Argon and neo

Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970
Argon and neon tubes, porcelain fixtures, incandescent bulbs, transformer, 244x147x23 cm
Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978
Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm
Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003
Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm
Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006. Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006. Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006
Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm
Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008. Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transformer, 188x102x61 cm

Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008. Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transfo

Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008
Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transformer, 188x102x61 cm
Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009. Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm

Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009. Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm

Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009
Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm
Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012. Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminium hex cel, reflectors and hardware, 270x152x74 cm

Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012. Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminiu

Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012
Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminium hex cel, reflectors and hardware, 270x152x74 cm
Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm

Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm

Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm
Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm
Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm

Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm

Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm
Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153

Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153

Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×

Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Works

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968. Glass, neon, etched glass, transformer and electrical wire, 151x152x30 cm

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968. Glass, neon, etched glass

Keith Sonnier, Red Lit Circle with Etched Glass (Lit Circle Series), 1968
Glass, neon, etched glass, transformer and electrical wire, 151x152x30 cm
Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970. Argon and neon tubes, porcelain fixtures, incandescent bulbs, transformer, 244x147x23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970. Argon and neo

Keith Sonnier, Neon Wrapping Incandescent I (Neon Wrapping Incandescent Sereis), 1970
Argon and neon tubes, porcelain fixtures, incandescent bulbs, transformer, 244x147x23 cm
Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Comus (Sel Series), 1978
Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 237x102x18 cm
Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003. Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm

Keith Sonnier, Proteus (Sel Series), 1978/2003
Neon, argon and electrical transmitter, 200x93x18 cm
Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006. Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006. Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Sconce (Chandelier Series), 2006
Neon, argon, wire and transformer, 49x30x15 cm
Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008. Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transformer, 188x102x61 cm

Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008. Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transfo

Keith Sonnier, Ballroom Chandelier (Chandelier Series), 2008
Neon, argon, wire, plexiglass, transformer, 188x102x61 cm
Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009. Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm

Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009. Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm

Keith Sonnier, The European (Chandelier Series), 2009
Neon, argon, steel, transformer, 89x48x43 cm
Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012. Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminium hex cel, reflectors and hardware, 270x152x74 cm

Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012. Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminiu

Keith Sonnier, Prairie (Gran Twister Series), 2012
Welded steel, neon, argon, transformer, aluminium hex cel, reflectors and hardware, 270x152x74 cm
Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm

Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm

Keith Sonnier, Wall Portal B (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 99x180x33 cm
Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm

Keith Sonnier, Double Portal (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 112x203x15 cm
Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm

Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015. Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm

Keith Sonnier, Roman Portal (Portal Series), 2015
Neon, wire and transformer, 170x140x48 cm
Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153

Keith Sonnier, Quachita (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153

Keith Sonnier, Okalousa (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm

Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996. Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×

Keith Sonnier, Atchafalaya (Cat Doucet Series), 1996
Charcoal, colored flocking on rag paper, 216×153 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing XI (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 40,5×31 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing X (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 40,5×23 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing III (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 51×28 cm
Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995. Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Keith Sonnier, Cat Doucet Drawing VIII (Cat Doucet Series), 1995
Marker on graph paper, 32×31 cm

Press

Flash Art

December 2018 – January 2019
“Keith Sonnier: tra astrazione eccentrica e antiform”

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Arte

September 2018
“KEITH SONNIER. Forme di luce e colore”

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Artforum

10 July 2018
“KEITH SONNIER”

Read article  →

The New York Times

27 January 2014
“The Sensual, Suggestive Appeal of Keith Sonnier’s Neon Sculptures”

Read article  →

Flash Art

March – April 2011
“Keith Sonnier. Light and space”

Read article  →

Press

Flash Art

December 2018 – January 2019
“Keith Sonnier: tra astrazione eccentrica e antiform”

Read article  →

Arte

September 2018
“KEITH SONNIER. Forme di luce e colore”

Read article  →

Artforum

10 July 2018
“KEITH SONNIER”

Read article  →

The New York Times

27 January 2014
“The Sensual, Suggestive Appeal of Keith Sonnier’s Neon Sculptures”

Read article  →

Flash Art

March – April 2011
“Keith Sonnier. Light and space”

Read article  →

Exhibition

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

KEITH SONNIER
Light Works. 1969 to 2017

Opening 27 September 2018
18 September to 19 December 2018

Read article  →

Exhibitions

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

KEITH SONNIER
Light Works. 1969 to 2017

Opening 27 September 2018
18 September to 19 December 2018

Exhibition  →

Institutions

Institutions

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