As a pioneer of the so-called “Light and Space” movement that flourished in Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s, Doug Wheeler’s prolific and ground-breaking body of work encompasses drawing, painting, and installations that are characterized by a singular experimentation with the perception and experience of space, volume, and light. Raised in the high desert of Arizona, Wheeler began his career as a painter in the early 1960s while studying at the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts) in Los Angeles. According to critic and curator John Coplans, Wheeler’s “primary aim as [an artist] is to reshape or change the spectator’s perception of the seen world. In short, [his] medium is not light or new materials or technology, but perception.”1
Wheeler’s first solo exhibitions were held at the Pasadena Art Museum (1968); Ace Gallery, Venice, California and Vancouver (1969); Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf (1970); and Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan (1975). His work has been included in a number of important exhibitions, including Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler (Tate Gallery, London, 1970); Rooms (The Institute for Art and Urban Resources at P.S.1, Long Island City, New York, 1976); Ambiente/Arte (37th Venice Biennale, 1976); The First Show: Paintings and Sculpture from Eight Collections 1940-1980 (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1983); Sunshine and Noir: Art in LA 1960-1997, (Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, and Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 1997-1998); and Percepciones en transformación: La Colección Panza del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao(Changing Perceptions: The Panza Collection at the Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 2000-2001), among others. More recently, Wheeler’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at 49 Nord 6 Est – FRAC Lorraine, Metz, France (2012) and has been presented in numerous group exhibitions includingSingular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2004); Time & Place: Los Angeles 1957-1968 (Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 2008-2009); Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970 (David Zwirner, New York, 2010); Phenomenal: Light, Space, Surface, a part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time initiative (Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 2012); Light Show (Hayward Gallery, London, 2013); Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection (Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, 2014-2015); The Avant-Garde Collection(Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California, 2014-2015); and Looking at Tomorrow: Light and Language from the Panza Collection, 1967-1990 (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2015-2016). In 2014, Wheeler presented a new environment at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in conjunction with the group exhibition The Illusion of Light.
Work by the artist is held in major museum collections, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Wheeler lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
David Zwirner has represented the work of Doug Wheeler since 2011. He has had two solo exhibitions with the gallery, in 2012 and 2014. His third exhibition, Doug Wheeler: Encasements, will be on view at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location in New York from January 23 to March 5, 2016.
1John Coplans, Doug Wheeler. Exh. bro. (Pasadena, California: Pasadena Art Museum, 1968), n.p.