KEITH SONNIER | Electrical Charge D

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Castelli Gallery
Electrical Charge D, 2017
Neon, steel, transformer, wire
32 x 15 x 8 in.


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Keith Sonnier (American, b. 1941) is a pioneering Post-Minimal artist. Sonnier was born in Mamou, Louisiana and received his MFA from Rutgers University in 1966. Sonnier quickly became an important figure in the New York experimental art scene, abandoning conventional sculptural materials in favor of those that offered a more immediate sensorial experience: satin, latex, flocking, neon, black lights, fluorescent powder, foam, wire mesh, inflatables, and more. In addition to pushing the boundaries of sculpture, Sonnier embraced new technologies and created radical performance, video, and sound works, like Air to Air, a sound installation that connected Castelli Gallery in New York with Ace Gallery in Los Angeles via a live audio feed, in 1975.

Sonnier was included in the iconic exhibition, 9 at Castelli, curated by Robert Morris at the Castelli Warehouse in 1968, and presented his first solo exhibition at the Castelli Warehouse in 1970. Castelli Gallery has maintained a close relationship with the artist ever since. In 2019 the gallery installed a survey exhibition entirely dedicated to the artist’s radical, ephemeral works of the 1960s, at 24 West 40th Street.

Sonnier’s work was included in the landmark exhibition, Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, curated by Harold Szeemann at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969. A retrospective of Keith Sonnier was organized by the Parrish Art Museum in 2018, which then traveled to the New Orleans Museum of Art. His work is collected by major museums in Europe and in the United States. In Spring 2022, Dia:Beacon will present a selection of newly acquired work from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Most recently, Sonnier was one of a select group of artists chosen to receive an award by The Barnet Newman Foundation, which determined that his work "embodied the spirit of individualism and independence that Barnett Newman exhibited throughout his own career". Each of the artists who received Grant-Awards was also invited to propose a work to be purchased by the Foundation which would, in turn, be donated to the Jewish Museum in New York and kept together in a group known as "The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Collection". The sculpture now in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum is Neon Wrapping Neon II, 1969.