JAN 24 – FEB 22, 2014
PACE – 510 W 25th ST – CHELSEA, NYC

see: SONNIER: Elysian Plain + Early Work / Gallery


left: ‘Lunar Slice’, 2013. neon, acrylic, aluminum. electrical wire, transformer.
11’1″ x 9’3-1/2″ x 4″

right: ‘Zig Zag Square’, 2013. neon, enamel paint, glass, aluminum, electrical wire, transformer.
96″ x 9’11” x 9-1/2″

KEITH SONNIER, ‘Zig Zag Square’.

after being so entranced by the use of light, esp neon light – in the raw 15 WARREN St. underground pop-up show, I was drawn to see this exhibit by KEITH SONNIER, one of the the founding fathers of neon light . . wall sculpture.
and it did not disappoint !!
damn, if I wasn’t entranced, all over again.

yes, it was blue chip. yes it was white boxed, but yes, it was also . . supremely – on the ‘edge’.
right at the very point of: well, basically . . great art.
totally abstract, it was evocative of . . nothing except, the subtle intersection of art, creation and man.
it was evocative of ‘nothing’ . . except: supreme creative judgement.
it was living .. zen. perfectly balanced, perfectly at ‘play’.

just like 15 WARREN . . colored light reflected and refracted like a 4th dimension . . playing with you, as you took a foot forward, or changed viewpoint. dancing, ever so lightly, but dancing, yes.
an interactive plane, from a stationary art piece, yes.

the workmanship was precise. and very light handed.
but despite the perfection, and technicality, yes: the ghosts of art to be seen . . came out to play !!

I found myself wondering what ARSENIY, and all the other young, new age & ‘under-budget’ artists of 15 WARREN, would be thinking of these sleek ‘corners’ !!
all this hi-budget and very pro handling, including the sleek metal wall mounts.

light at rest / stationary, and . . at play.

Mr. Sonnier (now 72) “gained recognition in the 1960s as part of a group of artists, among them RICHARD SERRA and BRUCE NAUMAN, that experimented with nontraditional materials for sculpture – from found objects and organic matter to video and light.” – a quote from a very appreciative review by ANNA RUSSELL, that posted in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, a few weeks, ago.

most interesting, also vis-a-vie the 15 WARREN ST show, which included much ‘light’ – but also dialoged so insistently . . on the childhood influences . . of these young downtown NYC artists, many of whom who grew up in the shadow of the Twin Towers inferno, was the last 2 paragraphs:

“The artist said his fascination with neon began in his hometown of Mamou, Louisiana, about three hours outside New Orleans. ‘I grew up in the dark – when it was dark at night, it was dark,’ he said. ‘You had the stars and the moon and the neon sign of the roadhouse,’ one of the few bright spots after sunset.

‘We always seek out the light and the warmth,’ Mr. Sonnier said. ‘Even if it is this artificial light.’ ”

read the article: ‘An Artist Who Is Always Looking Toward the Light’ – WALL STREET JOURNAL

KEITH SONNIER, ‘Lobbed Claw’, 2013. neon, acrylic, enamel paint, aluminum, electrical wire, transformer.
93″ x 75-1/2″ x 15-1/2″

not too whimsical. nowhere near ‘sweet’.
just right.

detail, ‘Lobbed Claw’.
a tinge . . sci-fi.

KEITH SONNIER, ‘Neon Wrapping Incandescent’, 1969. neon, incandescent light bulbs, transformer.
94″ x 64″ x 13″.
this was an example of an early work.

even in the early work, the play of the elements was precise, supremely balanced.
exactly, on .. point.
graceful, playful, but not too playful.
maybe ‘entrancing’, really is . . the right word !!

pink and blue are such American colors. such early colonial, founding colonist colors. if you study early American quilt arts, and, the big revival of the form, in the 1940s, and including decorative embroidery from that time – you well know, this shade of pink and blue. it backed many a quilt. it livened many a threaded & hand stitched nursery ‘sampler’.
if you have ever stopped to watch a North East American sunset, then you know, why . . these are the colors of American folk art.

this early piece plays the colored neon tubing . . around incandescent light bulbs.
electricity, and the light it produces is just as much an American folk tale, as . . quilt stitching.
the innovation of the founding fathers.

even in his early works, Mr. Sonnier had the technology down. precise.
not to forget the . . F-L-O-W.
the elegant, slightly twisted . . glow of the flow.

under-statement . . is a hard thing to do.