Keith Sonnier

Halle Sud. Galerie Faust

Though this pair of exhibitions was primarily dedicated to Keith Sonnier’s latest work, the Halle Sud portion included several pieces from the ’60s. It was during this period that the artist introduced his signature materials including neon and glass, and it was interesting to see his “antiform” investigations once again. The spare materials and the neon installations that alluded to form without making it explicit have now been replaced by a dialectic between defined form-structure on the one hand, and its radical transgression on the other.

Though Sonnier delineates precise geometric forms, in particular large circles or rectangles, the use of transparent glass undercuts their physical impact. At the same time the neon interferes with the perception of the work’s integrity and creates an immaterial dimension. In his catalogue essay, Donald Kuspit interprets this opening as the evocation of a sacred dimension that emotionally involves the spectator and that constitutes, for the artist, a means for confronting the absolute. This transcendent value is evinced with even greater pathos in the sculptural installations in steel and aluminum. These large structures assume a totemic aspect, or better, they remain suspended between archaic totem and futuristic robot. The colored neon lights create broad halos that contradict the peremptory nature of the sculpture. The physical nature of the work is invested with the intensity of an equally strong, yet opposing quality—immaterial, weightless, without borders. Light and matter coexist as two absolute polarities; incorporating the imponderable into the very body of the work, the artist transcends the physicality of matter.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.