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, Pasadena, California (1968); Ace Gallery, Venice, California (1969); Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf (1970); and Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan (1975). His work was included in a number of important exhibitions in the 1970s and 1980s, 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, Venice, Italy (1976); and Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945-1986, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986), among others.
More recently, Wheeler’s work was presented in Selections from the Collection of Helga and Walther Lauffs, Zwirner & Wirth/David Zwirner, New York (2008); Time & Place: Los Angeles 1957-1968, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2008-2009); Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, David Zwirner, New York (2010); and Doug Wheeler, David Zwirner, New York (2012), in which the artist presented his first “continuum atmospheric environment” in the city. He was also featured in the 2011-2012 exhibition Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, as part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time initiative. In 2014, Wheeler presented a new environment at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in conjunction with the group exhibition The Illusion of Light. In 2017, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III, 1971.
Work by the artist is held in prominent museum collections worldwide, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Wheeler lives and works in Santa Fe and Los Angeles.
1John Coplans, Doug Wheeler. Exh. bro. (Pasadena, California: Pasadena Art Museum, 1968), n.p.