Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keith Sonnier and Carolina Sardi at Heriard-Cimino

Known for his coolly luminous large-scale neon sculpture installations at venues like the Munich International Airport in Germany, Keith Sonnier has always been able to meld varied approaches into his own unique style. Whether intimate or monumental, his work is always personal, if a tad detached. Growing up in Mamou, Louisiana, he was intrigued by the reflections of neon over water at night, an interaction of electric colors and natural forces that later characterized his work in media such as fabric, bamboo, glass and wood. Appearing simultaneously with a large solo exhibition of his work in Baton Rouge, this Heriard-Cimino show features some smaller pieces that are downright quirky even by Sonnier standards.
For one thing, the walls of the rear gallery are covered in newspapers, a not so veiled reference to the BP oilrig catastrophe. Yet it’s veiled anyway because Sonnier is always oblique. DINING CHANDELIER, top, features two gently curving neon tubes suggesting a classical urn, but it contains a chaotic series of glowing neon loops like a child’s doodle rendered in light. Yet more playful is TEA SERVICE, a set of very oversize cups and saucers stacked as if left over from a gathering of giants. But their fuzzy flocked surfaces, rendered in bright yellow and pink, transport us to a realm of surrealism—or Dr. Seuss—it’s hard to say which. As usual, Sonnier presents us with a Zen puzzle, and it hardly matters whether it has no answer, or many answers. Amidst all this, Miami-Argentine Carolina Sardi’s slender painted steel wall sculptures in the front gallery, such as STARRY NIGHT, below, may suggest so many elaborately arranged exclamation marks, computer code, or perhaps zany hexagrams from a hitherto unknown version of the I-Ching. Signifying human figures and natural forms hovering in space, they evoke devious MAD MEN-era modernist décor, or coded wall accents conveying secret messages. In this they are not unlike the social rituals and ordinary human interactions that inspired her to make them in the first place.~Bookhardt


Keith Sonnier: FLOCKED RELICS AND LIGHT SCULPTURE
Carolina Sardi: BETWEEN YOU AND ME
Through Oct. 30
Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriard-cimino.com