By Erin Riley | July 18, 2014 | Culture
Artist Keith Sonnier lights up Tripoli Gallery with his wall-mounted electric works.
Propeller Spinner (Antenna Series), 1990 by Keith Sonnier.
Along with other radicals like Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman, sculptor Keith Sonnier stormed the art world in the 1960s with his Minimalist and site-specific pieces that, unlike those before him, were characterized by their use of insubstantial materials like cloth, mesh, glass, and most notably, neon light. From July 17 to August 17 at Tripoli Gallery, the artist will mount “Keith Sonnier: Elliptical Transmissions,” an exhibition of his neon wall reliefs and the drawings that inspired them. The show will map the artist’s path from 1990 to 2013—a trajectory driven by his early media experiments with electrical transmissions.
“I have always loved the way neon lights alter the atmosphere of space, especially as markers of life on long drives through the country,” explains Sonnier. He was initially drawn to neon as a medium because of its “hot” quality, a term he describes as “loaded with associations and suggestions.”
In Propeller Spinner (SHOWN), the artist visualizes the flow of transmission energy through the use of light. Created as part of his Antenna Series in 1990, the piece was inspired by the artist’s nostalgia for radio and television antennas, which were becoming obsolete with the advent of cable.
The other works on display, created over the last few years in Sonnier’s Bridgehampton studio, exhibit a turn toward the durable. When the artist moved into his 200-year-old house in Sagaponack, he struggled to adjust to its outdated lighting fixtures and decided to create his own. This led to his Chandelier Series, a sequence of curvaceous, darting light sculptures, which have become one of his most highly commissioned designs to date.
In the last two decades, Sonnier’s work has included large-scale installations like the glass lobby of Lever House in Manhattan, which he lined with colored light, and a neon installation at the Caltrans building in Los Angeles. Later this year, Sonnier will create a three-tiered light installation for a new building in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. “We always seek out light,” the artist says, “even if it is artificial.” “Keith Sonnier: Elliptical Transmissions” runs from July 17 to August 17 at Tripoli Gallery, 30 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 377-3715
Photography by Douglas M. Parker/Tripoli Gallery