“We were intrigued by Summer Wheat’s process and use of material, pushing the boundaries of acrylic paint to create works that are compelling and visceral.” – Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Amanda Hunt, Assistant Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem
Summer Wheat (b. 1977, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) received a BA from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Recent solo exhibitions include the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City (2020); KMAC Museum, Louisville (2019); Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles (2018); Smack Mellon, New York (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2017); and Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City (2016). Additional museum exhibitions include Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2013–14); deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (2013); and Torrance Art Museum (2013). Wheat received the 2016 New York NADA Artadia Award and the 2019 Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago. The artist’s work is in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Peréz Art Museum Miami; The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC and the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. Blood, Sweat, and Tears, the artist’s largest solo museum exhibition to date, is currently on view at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City through May 2020. Wheat will have a solo exhibition with Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles in 2021.
Favoring malleable structures and expressive color palettes, Wheat’s tactile paintings merge process and narrative to ponder individual and collective human experience as seen through various moments in art history. Drawing on rich traditions from Egyptian relief sculptures to Modernist painting, Wheat’s textural art objects destabilize material boundaries and elevate quotidian life through scale and movement. Borrowing from the logic of medieval tapestries hung as symbols of authority, Wheat allows acrylic paint to ooze through fine wire mesh causing figures to emerge and dance upon lush, fiber-like surfaces that coalesce into heroic history paintings.
Born in Oklahoma City, the artist’s understanding of institutional art centered on Native American traditions of art production, focusing special attention on the connection between human and animal behavior respective to their environment. Rather than making quaint the lives of those who struggle, Wheat dignifies her subjects and decidedly refutes the gender specific representations found in various cultures through history by swapping women into the traditional roles of men. Her figurative scenes aggrandize the invisible work of women by focusing on both their experience and their craft.
Wheat’s practice deftly flattens hierarchies between the fine and domestic arts and crafts, embracing the intuition of felt experience as rival to conventional reason and logic. Inserting swaths of gold leaf and jeweled embellishments, Wheat meticulously makes the mundane regal and monumental.