"Luminous" at Box 13 is worth sticking around for -- as you navigate the expanse of the main gallery, venture up its winding staircase and explore its upstairs rooms, it keeps getting better. The seven artists in the show are united well by their use of light -- either simply using it as a tool, manipulating it or toying with its meaning -- but some pieces simply work better than others.
Christopher M. Lavery is one artist who uses light in the sense of exposing truths -- here, shining his on some well-trod myths. He dominates the main floor of the gallery with multiple sketches on paper that feature the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot in varying sizes. There's even a clay Nessie sitting in a bathtub of sorts, surrounded by surveillance cameras, as well as a TV screening a video of Lavery himself stomping through a forest, à la Big Foot. However elaborate this might be, it comes off as too juvenile and self-indulgent to really provoke, or even basely amuse.
Moving forward, though, Tobias Fike's Half the Speed of Light Is Constant and Cannot Be Touched is especially effective. It features a narrow, house-like wooden structure with a window that's lit from within by a bulb. At first glance, it seems like something's missing -- that's it? -- though the exhibition list notes that you can touch the work. When you do, you immediately feel a heartbeat. Of course, it's not really a heartbeat, but it feels like one -- you know that thumping rhythm. Somehow, Fike has trapped the vibration from more than 60 of the artist's family members clapping to his heartbeat inside the piece, and it assumes an unexpected alive quality -- the wood gives off warmth, and you hear the vibration more than you feel it. It's a deeply personal piece that you soon become attached to, your own heartbeat trying to match the rhythms of the wood's in that weird way. To attest to its personal nature, the piece isn't for sale.
On the second floor of the gallery, Fike has another standout. It's a less complicated concept but still ingenious. For 36 Light Years Away, he's punched small holes into a line of cardboard boxes and lit them from behind with fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs. That's pretty much it, but he's managed to create whole constellations in these little boxes that are just dazzling.
Some of the best works seem to have been saved for the second floor. Especially of note is co-curator Annie Strader's Locating Eden, which features a Remington typewriter standing on a table, on a bed of soil. Adding to this indoor-outdoor puzzle, the serene image of clouds is projected onto the typewriter's paper. Another notable work is co-curator Matthew C. Weedman's Freeman, a video featuring a small astronaut toy made larger than life, lit by a storm of bright blues that are a shock of color in this largely black-and-white show.
My favorite piece has to be Kristen Beal's June, for its display of old-timey ingenuity and craft. She's made miniature scenes of her native Kansas landscape -- a horse grazing, a looming water tower, even a moving oil rig -- and positioned and lit them so that just their shadows cast against the wall. They're supported by wooden blocks, laid out like a road that you happily travel along.
"Luminous" is on view at Box 13, 6700 Harrisburg Boulevard, now through February 25. For more information, call 713-533-8692 or visit the gallery's Web site.