artist / participant
The Bernier-Eliades Gallery is pleased to present the first solo show in Greece by Keith Sonnier. The exhibition features important works from the period of 1996-2008 and includes nine neon-light sculptures and a body of seminal drawings.
Keith Sonnier (born 1941,Louisiana,USA) is renowned as one of the first artists to use light as a form of sculpture in the mid-1960s. He studied at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, LA from 1959 – 63 to receive his M.F.A from Douglas College, Rutgers University in 1966. His practice spans performance, film, video, sculpture, large-scale installation and architectural intervention.
Over the past five decades Sonnier has carved a pioneering and historic path out of the orthodoxies of minimalism in the direction of a process-oriented and interactive mode of art using materials such as cloth, latex, rubber, fabric and screening in a synthesis of architectural components that include extruded metals and plastics. Founder of the self-coined 'send/receive' phenomenon as a protagonist in the 'New Sculpture' movement of the 60s alongside the likes of Bruce Nauman, Eva Hesse, Barry LeVa and Lynda Benglis, Sonnier has championed an historically distinctive approach of his own to light, color, and transparency. His oeuvre from 1996-2008 is critical on account of a renewed interest in studio work and the transmissional aspect of light waves. Sonnier's ongoing fascination with the object of transmission as well as the image transmitted culminates in the use of the tv antenna as an abstract, obsolete symbol – as history itself ever past – in 'Baumgate Study I'. In this light, the artist describes each of his sculptures as coming out of architecture, and the wall as an architectural support that becomes its housing processing raw data into art. The result is color as light, color as volume, color as line.
Inspiration is drawn from the work of engineers, scientists and designers alike - fuelling a multifaceted investigation that translates into a mode of art rich in sensuality, emotion, and spirituality. From Chinese calligraphy to the detritus of everyday life, from performance art to the mass media, from found objects to specific alloys, Sonnier's sphere of influence is boundless.
As Sabine Vogel writes: 'Sonnier's works carry a massive charge of emotion - full of eroticism as in the 'Cat Doucet' series. If Sonnier's earlier works were characterised above all by a sensuousness of colour, a quality that presented a sharp contrast with the materials and forms he used, his most recent works are clearly loaded with psychological and autobiographical associations as well. This level is apparent in the relationship between the title and the visual aspect of the work. The words on their own remain abstract - 'Depose', or 'Saule Pleureur' (Weeping Willow'). Like a safety pin, the neon tubes in 'Depose' seem almost perceptibly to pierce through the blown-up forms. And in 'Saule Pleureur', poison green (a colour that Sonnier uses only rarely) neon lines fall from the wall into a space in a movement that does not occur elsewhere, in an arrangement that appears as unreal as something experienced in trance. In a tremendously impressive way, a highly personal state of emotion - an experience, a psychic trauma - is here being translated into a sensuous form made of light, which spreads out into surrounding space.' (essay for the exhibition catalogue 'Keith Sonnier: Sculpture 1981-2002' pp 10)
Since 1968, Sonnier has held over 100 solo exhibitions worldwide including an exhibition designed specifically for the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2002); a survey exhibition at the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (1993), which traveled to Kunsthalle Nurnberg and Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, Switzerland (1994); and exhibitions at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (1989), the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1979), and the Museum of Modern Art, NY (1971).
Sonnier has participated in Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1972), the Venice Biennale (1972, 1982), and the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York (1973, 1977). Early in his career, Sonnier received the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1974) and first prize in the 9th International Biennial Exhibition of Prints at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo (1974). The artist has been twice awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1975, 1981).
Public commissions include monumental indoor and outdoor neon-light installations at the Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc., New York (1981); The New International Airport in Munich, Germany (1989-92); the Miami International Airport, Florida (1996); the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington D.C (1998); Zentrum fur Internationale Lichtkunst Unna, Germany (2002); and the Lever House, New York (2003).
The work of Keith Sonnier is found in important public collections worldwide including: the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, CT; the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge; the Kunsthalle Nurnberg, Germany; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal; The Museum of Contemporary Art, LA; The Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Sprengel Museum, Hanover; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.
Selected Works 1996-2008