Through the Doors of Perception: Doug Wheeler's Mind-Bending Installation at David Zwirner Gallery

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 03:34 PM

Step into the Void: Doug Wheeler's all-white environment at the David Zwirner Gallery leaves the viewer standing in a fog. (Carolina A. Miranda)

Since the 1960s, the artists of California's "light and space" movement have been using light and paint and other subtle materials to create room-sized environments that toy with a viewer's sense of perception (and sometimes balance). One of these artists, Doug Wheeler - a figure who has rarely shown his work in New York - now has an installation on view at the David Zwirner Gallery that employs brilliant lighting, lots of white paint and some cleverly-placed architectural elements to create an experience that completely wrecks all sense of depth perception.

Step into the space and you see what appears to be a luminous, white light box that occupies an entire gallery wall. But get closer -- as in: one millimeter away from it -- and it begins to become apparent that the light box is actually a recess in the wall that you can step into. But the combination of the lights and removal of all horizon lines (Wheeler has curved off the corners of the room with wood and paint) remove all sense of depth from the space. Each step inside the recess feels achingly tentative since the eye can never tell when the room is going to come to an end. It's like walking around in an unbearably thick fog -- and the effect is hallucinatory and unsettling. Once inside the piece, the illumination slowly (over a period of about 15 minutes) fluctuates from the dimness of dusk to the brilliance of a desert high noon.

If you're going to go see the work, a tip: the effects are at their most extraordinarily trippy if you step in when the piece is empty. If it already contains viewers, Wheeler's depth perception tricks will be revealed. So, if you have the time and the patience, ask the gallery staff if there's anyone inside before going in (or even looking at it). And only step inside once the recess is empty of people. The things it will do to your head will be more than worth the wait.

Doug Wheeler's SA MI 75 DZ NY 12 (yes, that's the title) will be on view at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea through February 25.


Carolina A. Miranda
Enter Wheeler's installation -- titled SA MI 75 DZ NY 12 -- and it's as if all you see is an illuminated white box.
Carolina A. Miranda
But the box can be walked into, and it's here where the viewer experiences the most hallucinatory effects: a complete lack of depth perception.


More in:

Comments [2]

PoliticalPop from world

i dont care about art but now that i read this now i know there is something cool that i will never get to see =(

Feb. 01 2012 05:06 PM
Joseph Holmes

Don't step inside unless it's empty — but also, don't visit the Zwirner Web site, where a photo of the exhibition will spoil the effect as well.

Jan. 20 2012 05:35 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net


Supported by