Boca Raton Museum of Art
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Thursday, November 19, 2009
Painting with light: A look at Keith Sonnier

                                                                             Keith Sonnier, Cross Station, circa 1987, aluminum,

                                                                             neon tubes, wire, edition of 4, 50 x 48 x 8 inches. 

                                                                             Permanent Collection 2004.111. Gift of the Estate of Edna Sloan Beron 


Renowned light artist Keith Sonnier (1941, Mamou, Louisiana) - whose work can be seen at the Boca Raton Museum of Art - has roots in the American Minimalism movement, which took place in the 1960s. His peers are artists like Bruce Nauman, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Eva Hesse and Robert Morris - artists who rejected pictorial illusionism and put their trust in real space.

Additionally, these artists redefined sculpture through the use of unusual materials (fabric, latex, industrial elements and light) in the 1960s-70s. One minimalist element of Sonnier's work is its relation to the space in which it is exhibited rather than a fictional space found within the confines of a frame. 

Instead of pointing to itself, as narrative pictures do, it points outwards, to its surrounding elements. When one looks at a piece of light art, one also looks at wall space, architecture and even the other people that inhabit the gallery space around them. Elements of this phenomenon can be seen in other light artists' work - Dan Flavin and James Turrell, for example. 

The defining element of Sonnier's style is his use of neon light. The sharp linear quality of neon as it emits from its tube casing allows Sonnier to essentially "draw" on an architectural element, in addition to creating a diffuse wash of color as it falls on differing planes. The wall, generally considered a structural support, is now a part of his canvas. 

Currently, Sonnier resides in New York City, where he continues to create light art sculptures. Some of his recent projects include the Tunnel of Tears which was featured at the reopening of P.S.1 in Long Island in 1997, and gallery shows at the Joseloff Gallery at the University of Hartford, CT, Galerie JGM in Paris, and PaceWildenstein, New York.

For Tunnel of Tears, Sonnier, bathed the interior of a chimney at P.S. 1 in blue and pink light. Sonnier integrated the existing architecture so that when looking at the piece, one can get a whole new feel for an interior that normally would have gone unnoticed. 

Alternatively, the work shown at JGM Galerie departs from his standard installation method. USA: War of the Worlds (2004) has a more confined feel to it, with American flags boxing in the color emitting from tubes of light at the center of the piece. Rather than the light painting a wall, the flags create a space with marked borders, making it difficult for the light to emanate beyond. 

This motif is repeated with Baghdad Relic (2004), also at JGM, wherein the mounted sea shells (listed as found objects) create a partition between light and wall, effectively absorbing a majority of the color. Once you are familiar with the trajectory of Sonnier's work, this deviation in style becomes all the more poignant.

Almost all of Sonnier's works ask us to see light and color as a medium, blurring our understanding of object and environment.


Posted by: Kelli Bodle, Curatorial Assistant @ 2:34:19 pm  Comments (3)
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Art-o-Mat is where it's at!

Visitors to the Museum often inquire about our quirky little machine situated in the lobby. Inevitably, younger visitors cast an eye to its bright colors and promise of a mystery prize. 

This reconstituted cigarette vending machine offers 2" x 3" original artworks created by artists from all over the country.  Simply insert a token - procured for $5 from the fine volunteers at the front desk - and out comes a miniature artwork. The Art-o-Mat is a great way to get affordable, handmade pieces of art; start your personal art collection on the cheap through this donation to the Artists in Cellophane group

About Art-o-Mat

Clark Whittington, the National Bureau Chief of Artists in Cellophane, has been repackaging art to incorporate into people's daily lives for more than ten years. The success of his project is evidenced by the number of Art-o-Mats installed worldwide  -  more than 80 of them! 

Here, at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, we have featured in our machine a few hometown heroes from around the state of Florida:

If you're a hepcat who is more interested in creating pocket art than in buying it, visit and learn about how you can become part of the Artists in Cellophane crew. 

The other artists currently featured in our Art-o-Mat:

Windi Rosson Landscapes
Maria Ortado Screen prints of fish
Susan McDonald Abstractions
Deborah McDougall Drawings
Candace Roth Hair jewels
Cici Painted wooden blocks
Paula Yardley Griffin Patterns and textures
Jenna Adams OCD Fun!
Thomas Rohr Sculpture
Mucho Mud by Brenda Taylor Pottery
Heather M. Schmaedeke Painted blocks
Corey Hengen Photography
ArtWorks Mystery artwork
Mike Lenkowski Paintings

If you are interested in supporting one of these artists, don't hesitate. These they sell out quickly and we are always incorporating new art into the mix.

And don't forget, with the holidays approaching...


Posted by: Kelli Bodle, Curatorial Assistant @ 11:57:30 am  Comments (0)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The disappearing Everglades; explored at Boca Raton Museum of Art

An art museum typically does not spend a great deal of time disseminating information about environmental issues, such as the plight of delicate ecosystems. But with the BRMA's current - and soon-to-close - exhibition Clyde Butcher: Wilderness Visions, the Museum has recently had cause to explore issues relevant to Florida's beautiful, enigmatic and fragile Everglades.

Mr. Butcher talks to seminar attendees

On Oct. 3, Mr. Butcher - a noted Florida wildlife photographer well-known for his undying passion for Everglades preservation - visited the Museum to lead a two-hour seminar/workshop/lecture about his black-and-white photography techniques and the ways in which his style has adapted to changing technology. Mr. Butcher, who spends a great deal of time "on the ground" in the Everglades, capturing images of the flora and fauna, also shared anecdotes about his time in the field.


The seminar (to which Members received a discounted entry) was open to the public, and enjoyed a sell-out crowd. After the event, attendees had the chance to mingle with Mr. Butcher and participate in a book-signing.

Everglades Lecture at Museum


As a compliment to the Clyde Butcher exhibition - which prominently features several large-scale images of the Everglades - the Museum's Education Department arranged for a free Everglades Lecture with local wetlands expert, Eric Gehring. The open event was held Oct. 28 at the BRMA. Museum Curator of Education Claire Clum emphasized the Museum's commitment to honor Mr. Butcher's mission to preserve "Florida's treasure."


Eric Gehring, the Education Director at the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, used a PowerPoint presentation and interactive audience exercises to highlight the Everglades size, scope, history and current efforts to restore and preserve the wetlands. Listed below are a few of the stand-out points that I picked up from Mr. Gehring's presentation:

  • The Everglades can be found in Palm Beach County (home to the Museum). You don't need to drive south or west to find them.
  • There are some plants and animals indigenous to the Everglades that can't be found elsewhere in the world.
  • In 1882, humans began making significant changes to the way the water flowed, creating an intricate canal system. The wetlands originally covered 18,000 square miles; today's coverage is significantly lower.
  • Florida rests atop limestone, which is essentially composed of fossilized sea creatures.
  • A vast majority of Floridians get their drinking water from aquifers located in the limestone.

Mr. Gehring's primary message was the value in recognizing the vital functions of the Everglades and the continued need to protect and maintain this vulnerable asset.

As a final note: Clyde Butcher: Wilderness Visions closes this Sunday, November 8, 2009.

Posted by: Tricia Woolfenden @ 9:49:09 am  Comments (2)
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