Daniel Wheeler is a young, talented sculptor with the ability to move seamlessly from open-ended fetish objects to complex, walk-in booth sculptures that are second cousins to the Pop combine but have a graphic bite.
Most of the sculptures are hewn of wood, found chain, old phones, metal tubing, bed stuffing and garage detritus. Many of his large scale objects--such as an elongated tong shape called “Iron Age"--look like tools unearthed from some past or future civilization. Others, like the three pieces collectively called “Boy’s Life,” resonate with more specific narrative. “Boys Life IV” is a vertical armature holding a mesh of thick wire that has a light bulb nestling in its core. “Boy’s Life I” suspends a smooth, sensuous, pelvis-like pod from a long vertical plumb. Lean and elegant, “World’s End” and “Utterance” pull us in because they intimate but never spell out meaning.
Wheeler is best in gutsy walk-in sculptures. The show stopper is “Of David.” It’s a real phone booth embellished with a full scale Hydrostone mold of a human body, positioned as if making a call. The back half of the figure is cut away so that viewers can walk into it. Your feet fit in foot molds, your hands travel through hardened arms and hands holding a telephone receiver. Once in the encasement you experience other parts of the sculpture: an old phone, a “Hot Talk” porn match book and peep holes set up to reveal a rusty, gestural drawing hung just behind the booth. Through electronic channels Wheeler delivers recorded, barely audible excerpts from phone-porn conversations, Joyce’s “Ulysses” and the feverish voice of an artist describing the blow by blow execution of the drawing behind the booth. In Wheeler’s funny, erotic yet somber booths, private and public selves collide. (Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., to Oct. 8.)