Keith Sonnier

Barbara Gladstone Gallery; Leo Castelli Gallery

This doubleheader was a genuine tour de force: at Barbara Gladstone, Keith Sonnier showed his earliest sculptures, which date back to the mid ’60s, and at Leo Castelli, new works. The differences in material and methods are startling. The early works are invariably of soft material (satin, cheesecloth, latex, rubber, flocking) used in a seemingly casual, innocent way, while the later works, of steel and fluorescent light, have a militant high-tech look. The times have indeed changed, but the principle is the same: constructivism in search of a wider expressive resonance. The “feminine sensibility” (remember that?) of Sonnier’s early works has been much noted, while the later works have been said to be more masculine. These categories obscure what they mean to reveal: the early works have an inviting tactile quality that suggests intimacy, while the later works are more bluntly physical—their

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