Keith Sonnier
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Courtesy and Copyright of the Artist

"Keith Sonnier, together with artists such as Eva Hesse, Barry LeVa, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Joel Shapiro, radically reinvented sculpture in the late 1960's, dissolving - even atomizing - sculpture's traditional mass of form in liquidity, pliability, and often transience. At the same time, they retrieved sculpture from its modernist homelessness and imbued it with a radical site relevance and/or specificity. Unlike the work of most of these sculptors grouped under the rubric of process Art, Sonnier has more often than not opted for a lyric eroticism and has been as beholden to the vagaries of his imagination as to revelations of process. Like Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg, and like his peer Lynda Benglis, Sonnier's roots in the rural south have made their way into his work. In his many travels, he has found and explored parallels with the bayou landscape and Cajun culture, whether strands of bamboo in India or Rio's carnival."

--from the catalogue essay for the exhibition Keith Sonnier at Pace Wildenstein, New York, 2005, entitled Illuminations by Klaus Kertess.


As a young artist, Sonnier was already interested in non-Western cultures, but it was his travels to Europe that helped him foster a real exchange of ideas with his European contemporaries who were also working within a modernist tradition. Traveling to France, Germany, Italy and Belgium helped Sonnier to develop an interest in the new global contemporary art which was emerging in the 60's and 70's. Sonnier's interest in light was influenced by the European artists, particularly Fontana, who first used light in the 50's. At the same time, early cave painting and tool making in Europe and Africa influenced Sonnier's art making and later, his collection of primitive artifacts and art. Sonnier has continued to work in a variety of materials with a strong focus on light and color applied to smaller scale sculptural objects to large environmental works and architectural installations.


"Sonnier's work no longer seems quite as offhanded as it did when it was first made. We can certainly appreciate that early work's brashness and casual élan, but what comes across more than anything else now is its well-tuned quality; its sense of esthetic surefootedness. Sonnier knew what he was doing from the beginning, and it shows."

--Richard Kalina, Drawing with Light, in Art in America, April 2004. Review of Keith Sonnier at Ace Gallery, New York.