WEEKENKD GALLERIES JOHN LEES: JOHANN'S CASTLE AND DAMIEN DIBONA: BETWEEN WONDER AND STRUCTURE AT: NIELSEN GALLERY, 179 NEWBURY ST., THROUGH APRIL 16. 617-266-4835. WWW.NIELSENGALLERY.COM. JOHN GIBSON: RECENT PAINTINGS AND HEATHER MCGILL: BLACK DRAWINGS AT: MILLER BLOCK GALLERY, 14 NEWBURY ST., THROUGH APRIL 20. 617-536-4650. WWW.MILLERBLOCKGALLERY.COM. MARTHA JANE BRADFORD: LOOKING INWARD LOOKING OUT AND RUTH BAUER: NEW WORK AT: CLARK GALLERY, 145 LINCOLN ROAD, LINCOLN, THROUGH APRIL 21. 781-259-8303. WWW.CLARKGALLERY.COM.
One of those works is "Johann's Castle," the epic titular piece in this exhibition. It is a gothic depiction of a towering, distant castle, a river snaking down the foreground into a lake. Lees renders the edifice and the hill it perches on in layers of rocky, gnarled paint, but for all that sense of weight and age, they glow. "Johann's Castle" could depict a hero's journey. Inside resides the Holy Grail, and the thick buildup leading to it represents the harrowing trials the hero must face before attaining his prize.
All of Lees's works balance the brutally profane with the sacred; his process leads us from one to the other and back again. A scroll is covered with the names of film noirs. They hover around a sketch of B-movie starlet Ann Savage, best known as a hellion in the cult classic "Detour." Although this is a drawing, it has the same clutter and buildup as "Johann's Castle," and the same mix of beauty and fear at its center. As Lees adds and subtracts from his works, he seems to inch toward himself, then away. With his art, he lets us watch this extraordinary and excruciatingly human process.