The Neues Museum Nürnberg presents Keith Sonnier. Lightsome, the first retrospective after the artist’s death last summer. Well over sixty works, from the 1960s to the present, provide insight into the diversity of the artist’s various periods of creative endeavor.
The title Lightsome alludes to Sonnier’s most renowned works: the numerous neon creations that have come to characterize his oeuvre. However, this exhibition intends to show that Sonnier was a decidedly open and undogmatic artist and that there is a lot more to discover beyond his light works.
As a student at Rutgers University, Sonnier was part of the New Sculpture movement which questioned both traditional sculpture and the minimalist aesthetic which was prevalent at the time, prioritizing instead ‘non-art’ and ephemeral materials.
In the 1970s Sonnier revolutionized video art as a communicative and performative medium. Lightsome includes Channel Mix (1972), a masterpiece from this period, from the Neues Museum’s permanent collection.
In the 1980s Sonnier traveled to Brazil, India, Indonesia and Japan. Travel exerted tremendous influence on this American artist whose curiosity and openness to other cultures informed his art making process – one that is intended to be experienced by all five senses.
Sonnier was born into a French speaking Acadian community in Louisiana in 1941. The exhibition title, Lightsome, conveys a sense of ‘lightheartedness’ and ‘serenity’ and alludes to Sonnier’s personality and attitude, which was influenced by growing up in the Deep South surrounded by cultural diversity.
The retrospective draws on a very special component: a collection that is representative of his work throughout his career. It was made possible due to a longstanding collaboration with Christa and Wolfgang Häusler (Häusler Contemporary Zurich) and is complemented by international loans from the Artist’s Estate, the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the Tate, London, and others.
The accompanying exhibition guide, which is available free of charge in the exhibition, can be viewed online as a PDF or downloaded here.