Keith Sonnier. Light Works

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Opening view on Saturday June 13 at 6.30 p.m.


Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

Keith Sonnier, Dis-Play II, 1970
(Série « Dis-Play »), mousse en Caoutchouc, poudre fluorescente, lumière stroboscopique, lumière noire, néon, verre, Dimensions variables, © Adagp, Paris 2015. Photo : Courtesy JGM Galerie

MAMAC goes on exploring American art and assemblage art presenting Keith Sonnier’s work in an exhibition entitled « Light Works ». Keith Sonnier was born in Louisiane in 1941 and started his carrer in 1960, using neon very early. He imposed an anti-illusionnist sculpture and stood up against the coldness of minimalist sculptures. Sonnier mostly uses flexible materials (fabrics, ribbons, veilings and metal grids) and creates curvy shaped neons, inspired by his home country and his travels. His light works prove to be straightaway more narrative and expressive than his contemporaries’ as Richard Serra, Dan Flavin or Sol LeWitt. His sculptures, always joyful, aerial and moving, explore the effects of light on materials, space and the observer himself.


Sonnier’s work has often been exhibited in France or abroad, including « When Attitudes Become Form » at Kunsthalle Bern, « Dynamo » at Grand-Palais (Paris) and « Neon – Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue ? » at Maison Rouge (Paris) and at MACRO (Rome).
Covering about 1 500 m², the exhibition gathers about thirty works representative of the artist’s career in the 1960’s until today, coming from European and American private collections, as well as from the artist’ studio. Light acts as a guiding thread throughout the exhibition: neon as a calligraphy tool, the totemic metamorphosis of sculpture through the integration of the object, or research into reflection and its consequences on the surrounding elements, are just some of the issues proposed in the exhibition. “Light Works” is a beautiful way of illustrating 2015, declared Year of Light in France by the International Organization of the United Nations (UN). A work has been specially created for the exhibition on the theme of the Promenade des Anglais, commissioned as part of the event “PromenadeS des Anglais” coordinated by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, former Minister of Culture and Communication. Sonnier, inspired by the Côte d’Azur, created Passage d’Azur, a site-specific work, which takes the form of an astral dome enveloping the visitor as an invitation to luminous discovery. The installation refers to the coastal topography of Nice, from its origins as a Paleolithic site, to the period of the Roman invasions, the advent of Christianity, and of course the great attraction of the English people for the region, giving its name to the Promenade des Anglais. The passage is not only metaphorical, but also literal. This work links all these elements together under an aerial dome that seems to suggest a celestial journey, and at the same time, modern modes of transport in the urban landscape.

Exhibition catalog

Exhibition curator:

Rebecca François, Olivier Bergesi and Laura Pippi-Detrey, MAMAC

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