The new installation by Doug Wheeler, currently on view at David Zwirner’s 20th Street gallery, cites itself as an exploration of the horizon, a delicately shifting light installation inside an enormous ellipsoidal room. Painted a harsh white, the floor and ceiling reflect the subtly changing neons running just out of site underneath the floorboards of the work. Comparable to the work of James Turrell, Wheeler’s pieces make much of the illusory capabilities of light acting on space. His 2012 installation at Zwirner, a massively lit wall giving the impression of an infinite color scape in front of the viewer, bears resemblance to a number of Turrell’s infinite lightscapes, allowing the viewer to slowly gain an awareness of their own act of seeing, and the behavior of their eyes in space.
Wheeler, however, seems less interested here in another visual runaround, and instead in creating a uniquely defined space. True, the lighting of the room rewards an extended stay inside, and as the viewer’s eyes adjust to the space, one can trace a gradual movement of light across the room’s walls, moving from soft purple hues to blue and back. But ultimately, where Wheeler’s horizon room breaks away from the pack of light and space artists is that of its place as a full perceptual environment.
The round, curved walls of the room create a unique sonic imprint, grabbing echoes from the inside of the room at certain points, and visitors can hear the sounds of the rest of the gallery as well. The unique shape of the room resembles an enormous reverberation chamber, similar to those used in classic recording studios, and effectively pushes sounds from the whole of the gallery into the room, where coughs, conversations and footsteps are given a ghostly, disembodied aura.
Focus and concentration seem to be key elements here, moving beyond Wheeler’s past experiments with perception to explore how the meticulous construction of his space effects not only the visitor and their sensation, but the acoustic and visual character of the gallery itself. Ultimately, where his work is constructed matters just as much as the demandingly exact dimensions of its construction, emphasizing the sonic character of its surrounding locale as an essential element. Bringing the full environment to bear on his work, Wheeler works at an intersection of interiority and exteriority, where judgements of position and resonance are just as significant as those of depth and space.
Wheeler’s work is on view through April 5th.