Born in 1941 in Louisiana, Keith Sonnier graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts, and he received a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University (New Jersey) in 1966.
In the 1960s, he was inspired by artists such as Richard Serra and Eva Hesse and their ways of conceiving sculpture, and he took inspiration from Minimalism to create assemblages placed on the ground or fixed to the wall by employing various industrial materials such as metal, rubber foam, glass, cloth as well as salvage objects.
As early as 1968, his mural sculptures brought together incandescent light with transparent fabric, which was soon replaced with neon in glass tubes. By using light and colour he draws in space, playing with architecture and with large glass plates in the shape of a circle or rectangle.
In the 1970s, neon became his material of choice, which he used along with geometric elements and fluorescent powder, leading to the development of pictograms, through the combination of tubes of various shapes and colours, with illuminated contours of light (‘Sel Series’).
Since the 1980s, Keith Sonnier has been working on major public and private commissions to create neon architectural installations in buildings around the world. His installations can be seen at the New International Airport in Munich (‘Lichtweg / Lightway’, 1990-1992) and the Neue Nationalgalerie of Mies van der Rohe (‘Ba-O-Ba’, 2002).