Anything Can Happen, 2021
Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Link to exhibition
The paintings featured in Anything Can Happen exemplify Summer Wheat’s career-long exploration of gendered archetypes found throughout history, the visualization of varied forms of labor, and the monumentalization of the quotidian. Expanding upon these interests, this body of work considers how the destabilization of our present moment can inspire a more wondrous experience of the everyday. Impacted by how the fabric of society has become unmoored over the past year, this series renders our moment of absurdity with equal parts anxiety, optimism, and play. In this wavering space where definitions blur, Wheat explores our newfound capacity to rethink day-to-day rules and structures.
Consistent with past paintings, the works in Anything Can Happen look back at moments in Art History connected to labor and gender. Presenting a tradition in which women were the original healers and caretakers, Wheat reimagines historically male-dominated roles by swapping gender-specific representations in her paintings. As the artist has stated, “Popular depictions of doctors, scientists and even diagrams such as the Vitruvian Man signify our relationship to understanding the human body through a male lens. It is my interest to take passages from history and create new versions where women proliferate these roles.”
Known for their tactility and texture, Wheat’s materials take on the form of both painting and sculpture, and borrow from the rich, and often gendered, history of fibers and textiles. Composed of acrylic paint pushed through a wire mesh, Wheat’s fragmented and geometric figures are depicted ingesting vitamins and medicine, engaging in acts of self-care, and providing for one another within interwoven worlds. Included in this exhibition is a series of stones and works-on-panel that function as textural foils. Providing a tactile and grounding experience for the viewer, these functional sculptures are based on the form of river stones and are adorned with hand-laid stone in the form of a mosaic, offering a physical reminder of some of the earliest forms of storytelling and communication.
Throughout history, people have sought to better understand the physical body as a way to garner control against mysterious external influences. The works in Anything Can Happen bring the body into focus by recalling and challenging a collective past understood through images and storytelling. As the exploration of the outside world has recently been restricted, these works formulate a new investigation of our inner world: our mind, our emotions, our bodies. Proposing a new reality that is embedded with wonder, Wheat has upended the logic that typically governs us, in search of an alternative understanding of the function of our bodies and its influence on our innerselves.