Keith Sonnier

15 May 2008 – 21 Jun 2008

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The final exhibition in our series at the off-site space in Clerkenwell is by American artist Keith Sonnier, and is curated by Clarissa Dalrymple. Dis-Play is a spectacular installation work characteristic of Keith Sonnier's innovations and controlled experiments in which light and space are treated as tactile materials rather than simply optical devices. Made of a range of materials such as foam, glass, strobes, ultraviolet tubes, and fluorescent pigments, Sonnier transforms Central Street into a throbbing, censorial den that engages all five senses. A re-staging of a piece from 1970, Dis-Play is one in a series of Sonnier's complex explorations of material phenomenology, a convergence of technology,Modernist aesthetics and transcendentalism. Revisiting this work almost forty years on brings into sharp focus Sonnier's role in the now accepted blurring of the distinction between painting and sculpture as well as highlighting the foundations he laid for the interdisciplinary practices that abound today. Accompanying Dis-Play is a series of wall sculptures, examples of Sonnier's pioneering work into sculpture-as-drawing in which he uses limited materials to create enormous visual presences. Sonnier has had a career-long practice of working in series, a process he sees as being essential to his creative energy and one that allows him to revisit his early forms and materials in order to manipulate and reinvent his form language. Included here are works from the 1960s File Series, as well as works from the mid-1990s Cohla Junction Series. The name of the File Series refers to the altered shape of a nail emery board file, although the fabrication of the series focuses on the sensation of touch and utilizes old-fashioned upholstery techniques to dictate the forms. Mindful of the three decades of investigation into neon and light sculpture, the more recent Cohla Junction Series, while drawing on African or Aboriginal themes, is made up of non-objective works which focus on the integration of architectonic electrical housing and sculptural elements. Throughout, as seen in works from the Cat Doucet and Depose series from the mid-1990s, Sonnier's roots in rural Louisiana play an important part in his work. The sculptures here relate directly to childhood themes as well as a perceived anthropomorphism in nature, their inflated forms suggestive of a type of figuration which seems to move in time and set up its own narrative descriptions.

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