RIP Keith Sonnier, master of neon sculpture

 

Keith Sonnier, whose work explored combining functional materials, especially neon lighting, in playful ways, has died at age 78. Among his best-known works is the massive public art piece at LA's Caltrans headquarters, designed to look like cars zipping through the night (shown below). Via New York Times:

He began using neon tubes, a material that would become his calling card, in 1968, often deploying them in unabashed candied colors: baby blue, hot pink, lime green, tropical yellows and oranges. But Mr. Sonnier was formally restless, and, particularly in the early years, his work could appear to come from completely different hands, involving collaborative performance, ephemeral sculpture, cutting-edge technology and communications theory.

“As his art developed,” Roberta Smith of The New York Times wrote in a review of two shows in 1989, “it came to have the feeling of a just-finished performance that, by the way, just happened to produce this marvelous if temporary thing to look at.”

Here's the late, great Huell Howser touring the spectacular Caltrans District 7 Headquarters in Los Angeles, designed to look like the "diamonds and rubies" of LA's (in)famous auto traffic.

And this short, moody piece by Mythos One gives a great sense of the scale and vibe.

Image: YouTube / Mythos One