The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Ba-O-Ba' by Keith Sonnier consists of a round and a rectangular plate of glass and three neon tubes in the primary colours, red, yellow and blue. The glass plates are next to each other on the ground, a little way from the plinth, leaning against the wall. A blue neon tube is attached vertically to the round plate, slightly to the right of centre. There is a horizontal yellow neon tube attached about a quarter of the distance from the top edge of the rectangular plate. A red tube of the same length as the yellow tube lies on the ground parallel to the rectangular plate, but slightly to the left in the direction of the round plate. The neon tubes are connected to the light network via wires and a transformer.
Keith Sonnier is one of the American artists who explored new possibilities in the field of sculpture in the late 1960s. They were influenced both by the austere designs of Minimal Art and by the experimental approach of the Fluxus movement. They created installation-like sculptures using unusual materials which could be both natural and industrial. Sonnier worked with neon, bamboo, aluminium and materials which he found, amongst other things. He also used video and other communication equipment for his work. He travelled a great deal and during his trips, he made objects incorporating the designs and materials which were prevalent in the local culture. The prevailing views in these places were also expressed in his works. He explained: “ I want my work to be a reflection of that culture in a justified way and in an aesthetic manner.”
'Ba-O-Ba' is the title of a series of works made using coloured neon tubes in combination with rectangular or round glass or aluminium plates. Sonnier described this as follows: “’Ba-O-Ba’ is a Haitian-French slang term which means colour or light bath. It is used to describe the effect of light on the skin or the body…” And also: “The 'Ba-O-Ba' works started in 1969 and were made as works with a visual and physical appearance. When you walk by or around the works they change your perception and colour your appearance”. Despite the fact that the 'Ba-O-Ba' works have a strong influence on the space in which they are presented, they remain independent sculptures. Composed of rigid forms and bright colours, the works have an immaterial, almost mystical character because of the radiation of the light and the reflections in the plates.