Keith Sonnier

Keith Sonnier (July 31, 1941 – July 18, 2020)[1] was a postminimalist sculptor, performance artist, video and light artist.[2] Sonnier was one of the first artists to use light in sculpture in the 1960s, and was one of the most successful with this technique. Sonnier was a part of the Process Art movement.[1][3][4]

Keith Sonnier
James Keith Sonnier

(1941-07-31)July 31, 1941
DiedJuly 18, 2020(2020-07-18) (aged 78)
Alma materUniversity of Louisiana at Lafayette,
Rutgers University
Known forperformance, sculpture
MovementPostminimalism, Process Art
Spouse(s)Jacqueline Winsor (1966–1980, divorce),
Nessia Leonzini Pope (1987–1998, divorce)


James Keith Sonnier was born July 31, 1941 in Mamou, Louisiana.[1] His family was Cajun and Roman Catholic, his father was a hardware store owner, Joseph Sonnier, and his mother was a florist and singer, Mae Ledoux.[1][5]

He graduated in 1963 from Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette).[1] In 1966, he graduated with his MFA degree from Rutgers University, where he studied under Allan Kaprow, Robert Watts, and Robert Morris.[1] After graduation from Rutgers, he moved to New York City with his some of his former classmates and his wife Jackie.[1]

Before his death he lived in Bridgehampton, New York.[1] Sonnier died on July 18, 2020 of an undisclosed illness, in nearby Southhampton, New York at the age of 78.[1]


Sonnier began experimenting with neon in 1968.[5] Neon lights later became a signature material used in his sculptural works.[5] The common materials Sonnier employed included neon and fluorescent lights; reflective materials; aluminum and copper; and glass and wires.[2]

His postminimalist and sculpture contemporaries included Bruce Nauman, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, Richard Tuttle, Jackie Winsor, and Barry LeVa.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1966, he married Jackie Windsor, a fellow art student from Rutgers University.[1] His first marriage lasted until 1980, ending in divorce.[1]

HIs second marriage was in 1987 to curator Nessia Leonzini Pope, ending in divorce by 1998.[1][6] He had one child from his second marriage.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kennedy, Randy (2020-07-23). "Keith Sonnier, Playful Sculptor in Neon, Dies at 78". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  2. ^ a b Sussler, Betsy (April 1, 1982). "Aesthesipol: Keith Sonnier by Betsy Sussler". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  3. ^ Brown, Kate (July 20, 2020). "Sculptor Keith Sonnier, America's Experimental Poet of Light and Neon, Has Died at Age 78". Artnet.
  4. ^ Blagg, Max (May 2012). "Keith Sonnier". Interview. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d King, Elaine A. (April 30, 2019). "Dispatch: Keith Sonnier". Sculpture (magazine).
  6. ^ "Keith Sonnier in New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018". Index to Marriages, New York City Clerk's Office, New York City, New York State. 1987. License Number: 26140

External linksEdit