Maccarone Gallery is currently hosting Portals, 14 new wall-mounted neon sculptures by artist Keith Sonnier. Sonnier’s by-now iconic work is emblematic of a generation of artists who sought to liberate the artistic encounter from the formal constraints of Modernism to produce a sensory and emotional experience that also extended beyond the Spartan affect of Minimalism. The category of post-Minimalism, however, does not adequately describe both the unique wit and visceral impact that Sonnier’s work displays.
In his latest series, Sonnier take the orphic allegory of the portal and explores its many different historical manifestations. Whether the portal serves as an entrance or an exit, the plane itself is a threshold — a doorway that contains both birth and termination. Taking this metaphor to its logical end, the works in Portals can be thought of as doorways to various different periods in human design — whether it be the neoclassical extension of a line into space or Romanesque arcading, each work is a luminous referent to specific architectural pathways.
The artist also displays a perversely delightful humor with the libidinous allegory of the portal as human orifice. Neon phallic protrusions punctuate the joints of these architectural gates, playing at the double-entendre embedded in the show’s title. Sonnier challenges the two-dimensionality of neon sculpture through twisting spatial arcs and juts that demand that the viewer change his or her own perspective to deduce what components of the work are exiting or entering. This tension between penetration and accommodation gives each work a wry corporeal undertone that is simultaneously abstracted by architectural allusions. Sonnier evokes art, the body, and architectural history in this polysemous suite of neon works.
Here are a few of out favorite pieces from this fun show!
Gallery View from the Opening Reception!
Above and below are, I think studies for Sonneir’s sculptures.
Portals by Keith Sonnier will be on Exhibit Through December 19th, 2015 at Maccarone Gallery, Located at 630 Greenwich Street, NYC 10014.