In lights: Keith Sonnier’s neon sculptures give classic architecture an artistic slant

In lights: Keith Sonnier’s neon sculptures give classic architecture an artistic slant

Neon artist Keith Sonnier blazed a trail when he turned to the vibrant, unconventional material for sculpture and installation art back in 1968. Today his monumental body of work includes Lichtweg (Lightway) at the Munich New International Airport, which matches over 3,000 feet of moving sidewalks that link the terminals and orient passengers. Sonnier also has an installation at Miami International Airport, while a commission via architect Thom Mayne which sees Sonnier create a virtual curtain of neon light that drapes and illuminates the courtyard of his Caltrans District 7 building is also in the works.

In spotlighting Sonnier’s dazzling oeuvre, the Maccarone gallery in New York City’s West Village is featuring his newest work in an exhibition entitled, ‘Portals’.

‘As to the design of my latest series, I am referring visually to portals found in the Gothic, Romanesque and Neo Classical architecture,’ says Sonnier from his Tribeca studio. His 14 wall-mounted neon doorways and other works are punched up with glaring shades of yellow, blue and cerise.  Even day-glow greens and magentas are included in his palette of choice. The psychedelic piece, Gothic Portal’is a case in point.

There’s a sense of wit to the captivating, freehand-like forms creations, such as Roman Portal.  Others extrude out of the wall and almost seem like a visual console, while others still incorporate rather phallic-like protrusions.

As to why this post-Minimalist artist first turned to neon about 50 years ago and continues do so rather than paint, he says, ‘I was seeking to create work that is democratic, mysterious and beautiful.’

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