Summer Wheat: Heavy Lifting
December 14, 2019 – April 5, 2020
Summer Wheat (b. 1977, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) has a long-held interest in combining forms of high and low art, as well as melding folk traditions and craft processes with fine art practices. Visual data from the Native American communities that surround her hometown of Oklahoma City forms the basis of an evolving body of work that tracks through multiple courses of human creativity. The traces of prehistoric cave painting, Egyptian pictography, and European mannerism that emerge in Wheat’s work appears alongside the modern elements of abstract expressionism and color field painting. She channels the infinite possibilities that Piet Mondrian thought lay in his signature grid by building her compositions on aluminum mesh screens. Pastry bags used for decorating cakes push the paint through the grated crosshairs, leaving little dollops that resemble tiny beads and creating a surface like that of a deftly woven tapestry. Viewed in person her paintings recall the pointillism of Paul Signac or the individual pixels of a digital image. These details coalesce into a compositional language that also contains references to the Modernist figurations of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Centering on agrarian, bucolic scenes of labor and survival among nature, she subverts the historical representations that cast only men in archetypal portrayals of human ingenuity and strength. While Picasso and Matisse may have helped to perpetuate the idea of women in art as objects purely in the service of the male gaze, Wheat’s allegorical still-life paintings show female figures as powerful warriors, healers, explorers, and makers of their own world.
Summer Wheat received a BA from University of Central Oklahoma and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. In addition to her exhibition here at KMAC, Wheat also has an upcoming show at the Kemper Museum of Art in Kansas City that will more widely survey the progression of her most recent work. Other recent solo exhibitions include Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles (2018); Smack Mellon, New York (2018); Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2017); Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv (2017); and Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City (2016). Her work has been featured in recent museum exhibitions, including ICA Collection: Expanding the Field of Painting, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2013–14); Paint Things: Beyond the Stretcher, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (2013); and Paradox Maintenance Technicians: A Comprehensive Manual to Contemporary Painting from Los Angeles and Beyond, Torrance Art Museum (2013). She is the recipient of the 2016 New York NADA Artadia Award given to one artist exhibiting at NADA New York. She is also the receiver of the 2019 Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago and is now part of the permanent collection of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. Wheat’s work is also in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle; and The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC.
Heavy Lifting, 2018
acrylic on aluminium mesh
68 x 144 inches
Exhibition sponsored by:
Jody & Peter Ashby Howard
Leslie & James Millar