Paul Housley’s paintings transform everyday subjects into hermetic color experiments. Though some of them have names such as “Laughing Skull” and “Blue Owl,” they are really more about color and gesture than figural representations (but “Begging Painter” does look like a naked ape that has gotten itself tangled up in a flag.) Photographer Yun Lee has done a series of “Private Worlds” in which portraits of women are juxtaposed with photos of shoes or stuffed Pink Panthers. These juxtapositions point to the opacity and unknowability of their worlds, and, as a consequence, to the very failure of portraiture. In “The Dedication” collaborators Nina Jan Beier and Marie Jan Lund have created a sculptural piece that combines a book by J.R.R. Tolkein and one by C.S. Lewis. The two books are glued together with their pages interleaved, creating an interesting geometry only to anyone who has not spent time with books. The point is, maybe, that the encounter between Lewis and Tolkein was hermetic, unknowable, opaque, or maybe even that the books in question are unreadable. The collaborators belong to the Jan family. a group of artists who have voluntarily taken on the name Jan, and whose slow-food-inspired Web site is full of aphorisms like the soul-destroying quotes printed on the sides of Starbucks cups. Marit Følstad contributes a video and a work of neon art. Painted neon can be very beautiful and conceptually powerful, like Glenn Ligon’s “Negro Sunshine” shown in Chicago last year, but Følstad’s “Lust” just seems derivative and conceptually thin. (David Mark Wise)
Through May 31 at Tony Wight Gallery, 119 N. Peoria.