Guggenheim Presents First Realization of Work from Series of Light, Space, and Sound Installations Conceived by Artist Doug Wheeler in the 1960s and ’70s

Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York Tower Level 7
March 24–August 2, 2017  


(NEW YORK, NY—March 23, 2017)—The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents the first-ever realized work from a group of installations conceived by Doug Wheeler during the late 1960s and ’70s: Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III, on view March 24–August 2, 2017. Produced in close collaboration with the artist, the Guggenheim installation is developed from drawings executed in 1968 and will be on view in the museum’s Tower Level 7. In addition to the architectural modification of an existing room to achieve an optical impression of empty space, which is a familiar element in other works by Wheeler, PSAD Synthetic Desert III is also a semi-anaechoic chamber: a space designed to suppress all but the lowest levels of ambient sound. Into this profound silence other sound will then be introduced. The two elements—optical and acoustic—transform the museum gallery into a world apart.  Wheeler compares the impact of the work to his own experience in the deserts of northern Arizona, where near-silent conditions  deeply influence the visual and felt sensation of space.  

Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III is organized by Jeffrey Weiss, Senior Curator, and  Francesca Esmay, Conservator, Panza Collection, with Melanie Taylor, Director, Exhibition Design, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. To realize the artwork, the museum is working closely with Raj Patel and Joseph Digerness of Arup, a design firm that specializes in the acoustic properties of built space. The presentation is executed in conjunction with the Guggenheim’s Panza Collection Initiative, an ongoing study devoted to questions around fabrication and installation of Minimal, Post-Minimal, and Conceptual art.  

Wheeler is most closely associated with the Light and Space movement of West Coast art. Since he abandoned painting in the mid-1960s, much of his work has been based on the optical dematerialization of the space of a gallery or museum room. Through a subtle application of the technology of light and  sound, he produces immersive spatial environments that heighten our understanding of perceptual experience.  

For the Guggenheim installation of Synthetic Desert, being created more than 40 years after the work’s conception, the artist’s ambition is to produce a hermetic environment based on a radical reduction of optical and acoustical sensation. To protect the quality of visitor experience, which achieves its fullest potential only with as few extraneous sounds and distractions as possible, each visitation group for Synthetic Desert will be limited to five people. A timed ticket that allows visitors to spend either ten or twenty minutes in the gallery is required. Tickets are free with the cost of general museum admission and may be reserved online, or at the Admissions desk on a first-come-first-served basis for select time slots. Visitors with accessibility concerns should notify Guggenheim staff upon arriving at the museum. Ticketing information is posted at 

PSAD Synthetic Desert III entered the Guggenheim collection in 1992 along with many other Minimal, Post-Minimal, and Conceptual artworks from the 1960s and ’70s that were acquired from the collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo. The realization of Synthetic Desert is intended to produce an authorized iteration of the work that can be re-created at the museum in the future. 
Exhibition Support Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III is sponsored by BASF Corporation. 
Major support is provided by LLWW Foundation. 

Funding is also provided by Glenstone Foundation, Suzanne Deal Booth, and The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. 

About Doug Wheeler

Douglas Wheeler was born in 1939 in Globe, Arizona. After beginning his career as an abstract painter, in 1965 Wheeler made an important transitional step that would impact the rest of his practice: he combined painting with neon light, creating the impression that the works were glowing with self-contained, inner light. Shortly afterward, he produced his light encasement works, large plastic painting-like objects illuminated from within by neon light. These works were installed in modified white rooms, marking an increased engagement with actual space—or “architectural volume”—as a medium in his work. Once the artist abandoned object-making, his works took the form of installations using light, sound, and architecture to produce a sensation of empty space. Wheeler’s first solo exhibition opened at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1968 and was followed by others at the Ace Gallery, Venice, California (1969), and Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf (1970). His work has been presented in group exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London (1970); P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1), New York (1976); Venice Biennale (1976); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1986), among others. In 2011–12, Wheeler’s work was included in the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time initiative and exhibited in Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. 

About the Panza Collection Initiative

Led by curator Jeffrey Weiss and conservator Francesca Esmay, with the support of a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Panza Collection Initiative addresses the long-term preservation and future exhibition of artworks of the 1960s and 1970s. The initiative is focused on the extensive collection of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from Italian collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo in 1992. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that these exceptional holdings are researched, preserved, and presented to the public with proper consideration for material integrity, historical context, and conceptual terms. By evaluating specific works, the initiative also aims to develop a broader framework through which to address the long-term sustainability of other variable, ephemeral, or fabrication-based artworks of this era. More information about the Panza Collection Initiative can be found at 

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim network that began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997) and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). The Guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that celebrate contemporary art, architecture, and design within and beyond the walls of the museum, including the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation can be found at 

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