Light - the main ingredient for sight. Walking into Doug Wheeler’s exhibition at David Zwirner is an intense elliptical and almost hallucinatory play of light that alters our perception of space. The most comprehensive collection of five ‘Encasements’: a light immersing environment presenting square ‘painting like’ neon light boxes positioned on a white wall with altered curved corners, creating a seemingly boundless space.
The illusion of perception of dematerialized space created by Wheeler left me feeling uncertain about the depth of architectural form. It is experience as art - there was no image or object, just a hint of an expanded physical space one which leaves the viewer completely blind sighted. These ‘Encasements’ are the epitome of the light-and-space movement of the 1960’s and 70’s: they make the immaterial – material. Like the artists affiliated with the group active in Southern California, notably James Turrell and Robert Irwin, Wheeler expands upon the work of ‘experimental psychology’ by showcasing it into a gallery setting. Wheelers works simultaneously challenges the notions of neutrality in the ‘white cube’ gallery space by making ones own consciousness its medium.
In all of the chaos of New York, Wheeler’s ‘Encasements’ serves as an uplifting meditation of seeing: it rewards the viewer’s gaze by transforming looking into a phenomenological physical experience. In fact, I didn’t want to leave.
|Doug Wheeler: Encasements, David Zwirner, New York, 2016.|