Tripoli Gallery: ‘Tragedy and Comedy’ / June 29 – July 29

Keith Sonnier, Pope Joan 23, 2017, marker on graph paper. 11 x 8.5 inches (28 x 21.5 cm).


Keith Sonnier

Tragedy and Comedy

June 29 – July 29, 2018

Opening reception:
Saturday, June 30, 4 – 6pm


Tripoli Gallery is pleased to present its second solo exhibition with Keith Sonnier, Tragedy and Comedy. Curated around 40 new drawings and accompanied by related sculptures, Tragedy and Comedy will be on view from June 29th through July 29th, 2018. We invite you to the opening reception on Saturday, June 30th from 4 to 6 pm, at 30a Jobs Lane, Southampton, NY, coinciding with his opening at the Parrish Art Museum.
Tragedy and Comedy illustrates the artist’s continued creative process during a period of personal health challenges. During this past year, Sonnier produced six new series of drawings, Pope JoanLong HornCorrugated TwistFloating GridElectrical Charge and lastly, inspiring the title of this exhibition, Tragedy and Comedy. Always a prolific draftsman, Sonnier’s works on paper provide a look into his process and the relationship between the two and three-dimensional aspects of his work.
The act of drawing is essential to Sonnier’s ability to maintain his creative momentum. Sonnier was inspired by reading the “airport” novel about Saint Joan, the first female pope who was also a healer and consequently titled a series of drawings, Pope Joan. The artist’s approach to line and shape varies with his subjects from the cattle-like figures in the Long Horn drawings to the energetic lines in his Corrugated Twist series.
The drawings are accompanied by four African masks, HodoMonsieur PierreMr. Smith, and Red Smile, as well as an original plaster cast referencing an elephant head, Blue Flocked Pachyderm. All are transformed by the velvety covering of solid color flocking. A playful take on his early conceptual use of industrial and ephemeral materials, these works recall Sonnier’s application of flocking (tiny rayon fiber particles infused with raw pigments), albeit this time on solid and recognizable objects. In the late sixties, Sonnier combined flocking and latex to produce the seminal, ephemeral work (Flocked Series), which is now widely recognized as belonging to one of the most important periods in contemporary American art.  
Lastly, a selection of recent light sculptures, Electrical Charge CFloating Grid BFloating Grid H, and Triple Loop Exercise B will be on view. The interconnection of line and color in many of Sonnier’s drawings suggests the design and structure of his light sculptures; neon tubes that bend and intertwine to explore the effect of light in real space. As Sonnier’s drawings inform the expression of their sculptural counterparts, this exhibition provides a further view into the artist’s process. 


Keith Sonnier (b. 1941, Mamou, LA) radically reinvented sculpture in the late 1960s. After graduating with a B.A. from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette in 1963, he went on to receive an M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1966. Sonnier experimented with a wide range of materials and in 1968 began working with neon, which quickly became a defining element of his work. Sonnier has been the subject of more than 130 solo exhibitions and has participated in more than 360 group exhibitions throughout his career. Sonnier’s architectural neon installations in public spaces have earned him wide acclaim in an international context. More than 20 important public commissions by the artist have been realized since 1981. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections worldwide. In 2013, Sonnier received the Arts and Letters Award in Art presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Sonnier is a two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1975, 1981), and was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1974. Also in 1974, he was awarded first prize at the 9th International Biennial Exhibition of Prints at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. This year Sonnier’s work will be featured locally in two long-term exhibitions: Keith Sonnier: Until Today, on view at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill from July 1, 2018 to January 27, 2019, and an installation first shown in 1970, Dis Play II, opens July 1, 2018 at The Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton and will remain on view through May 26th, 2019. Tragedy and Comedy is Sonnier’s second solo exhibition with Tripoli Gallery following Elliptical Transmissions in 2014. Sonnier currently lives and works in Bridgehampton/Sagaponack, New York.  

30a Jobs Lane




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