Artist Keith Sonnier, a pioneering voice in the development of light art and an ardent user of neon in complex, multi-layered sculptural arrangements, has died at the age of 78. His studio confirmed the news the week.
Working for much of his career out of New York City, Sonnier’s work was defined by massive panes of transparent glass and tubes of neon, snaking in and out of the surface of the work to create gentle, diffuse glowing effects and evocative shapes. Finding a shared vision among the minimalist and light sculptors of the city’s artistic renaissance, he would continue to grow and develop a materially and aesthetically diverse selection of works that mixed bright colors with lush, subtle atmospherics.
Born in Louisiana in 1941, Sonnier would spend time between the U.S. and France, finding his voice and fertile artistic soil in New York during the 1970’s. Originally posed as a sort of “anti-art” practitioner, whose materials and vision worked against easy readings and assumptions of the art object in the lexicon of the day, he would grow into a vital and expressive voice in the discourse of sculpture and space during the 1970’s and beyond, going on to create a number of expansive, impressive light-based commissions and projects around the globe.
— D. Creahan