Douglas Wheeler was one of the Los Angeles artists involved in Light and Space, a movement that emerged primarily in Southern California in the late 1960s. Wheeler, alongside James Turrell and Robert Irwin, forged an aesthetic that became highly influential and created a distinct identity for a generation of artists in Southern California.
Executed in 1968, Untitled is one of Wheeler's important early works, dating from the same year as his first solo exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum. While in terms of construction it consists of a light installation and various layers of Plexiglas, these techniques and components are essentially concealed (unlike the work of, say, Dan Flavin). Because of this, the appearance of this strangely hovering square and its light-radiating edges is completely ethereal. It emits a soft glow, and it is this light, which is created by four neon strips placed along the back of each of the four edges, that is the true art work. The surface of Untitled is not flush with the wall; the light emphasizes to some degree its objecthood in a manner that perhaps invokes the work of the Minimalists. Yet the way in which Wheeler has used light means that it appears to melt into space, its objecthood slipping out of sight. Wheeler has removed color from the equation; he challenges traditional artistic hegemony of the material, instead creating something that functions on a completely intangible level. The expressiveness of this work therefore results from something that is untouchable and to some extent invisible. This is energy as art.