The legendary artist Doug Wheeler is currently front and centre at a solo exhibition staged at David Zwirner’s gallery space in New York. A forerunner in the Light and Space art movement, which originated in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 70s, Wheeler is best known for his installations that tweak perceptions of space, light and volume.
Of these, his Encasements – slender light paintings made from fabricated acrylic and neon – are the most recognisable. The David Zwirner exhibition involves five pieces – no more than two Encasements have ever been exhibited together – allowing visitors a rare chance to consider them in relation to each other, as opposed to as standalone works.
Starting around 1967–69, Wheeler created just 20 works in this typology. Composed of large panels of vacuum-formed plastic and outlined with strips of neon lighting set into the edges, the works are typically installed in an all-white room, devoid of ambient light and any architectural detail, so that the neon light is the only true focus.
Wheeler also created two rarely seen centre light variations, where the light emanates from the middle of the panel – one of which is also included in this exhibition.
By creating an individualised sensorial experience, Wheeler’s Encasements upset the stereotype that art needs to be a physical object. Staged together in an open configuration at David Zwirner, this point will no doubt be hammered home even stronger.