Doug Wheeler’s installation “DW 68 VEN MCASD 11” (1968-2011), in San Diego. Photo: Doug Gates/Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

The artist Doug Wheeler tells two stories, both having to do with light, that go a long way toward explaining why he is so revered by many fellow artists — as a visionary and a relentlessly stubborn perfectionist — and also why his work has been seen by so few American artgoers over the last few decades, particularly those in New York.

The first story takes place at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, where several years ago Mr. Wheeler created a complex installation he calls an “infinity environment,” featuring a light-saturated, all-white, rounded room with no corners or sharp angles, rendering viewers unable to fix their eyes on any surface. It invokes an experience of light itself as an almost tactile presence. As Mr. Wheeler continued to tweak the piece, a small boy walked up to the room and hesitated before entering, putting his hands in front of him because his senses told him that the square entrance was a wall, not simply a wall of light flooding his vision.

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Randy Kennedy
New York Times

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