The work of Doug Wheeler is an exercise in embodiment and space, perhaps more so than many of his Light and Space compatriots. Rather than merely exploring the sensations of seeing and perceiving space, Wheeler pushes beyond this sense of expanded optics and its cognitive effects, often exploring how this sense of space is reflected onto broader sensations of the body. Encasements, the third solo exhibition by Wheeler in collaboration with David Zwirner, continues this work, showing a body of smaller-scale works that work in a strikingly harmonious series of interactions throughout the gallery.
Wheeler’s previous exhibitions with Zwirner have often lingered on the side of spectacle, most notably with his first show, where the artist’s SA MI 75 DZ NY 12 (2012), a flat expanse of white light saw lines around the block to experience the startling delimitation of space. Yet here, Wheeler’s work operates on a smaller scale, utilizing a series of reprised Encasements (Vacuum-formed acrylic panels with gently glowing light structures installed inside them) spread throughout the space. Each piece, afforded ample space for the diffusion and reflection of their luminous surfaces, creates a peculiar sense of expansion within the gallery, as if each work had opened a series of infinite depths within the walls of the gallery.
Taken as a whole, Wheeler’s installation, then, not only creates moments of delimited space within the confines of the Chelsea gallery, but rather a broader sense of shifting, dissolving visual continuity. The changes in balance, shade and depth that result from a pass through the gallery make themselves felt from any vantage point, and their contrasts in hue and intensity create subtle offsets in the viewer’s perception of space itself.
It’s this almost jagged sensation of depth and space, caused by Wheeler’s nuanced variations in light, that underscores his more expansive, physical engagement with space itself, and which sets him apart from colleagues like James Turrell or Robert Irwin. Wheeler’s work never forgets the body itself as it passes through his environments, and constantly toys with the mind’s attempts to control the body in delimited space. While perception itself frequently appears in the avant-garde movement’s emphasis, few approach the natural conclusion of the body’s behavior and movement through space in the way that Wheeler does, a note that makes his show a strong entry in the spring calendar.
Encasements closes on March 5th.
— D. Creahan
Doug Wheeler: Encasements [David Zwirner]