Magic eye

WHITTIER — For Luke Aleckson, it all started with a little wooden puzzle, the kind made up of interlocking pieces that, when fitted together just right, form a small, smooth block about the size of a Rubik’s Cube.

A toy meant to be taken apart and put back together — the whole concept seemed to Aleckson to be at odds with the design of today’s “toys.” An Xbox is a black box for most of us, its staggering complexity hidden beneath a user-friendly interface.

“Usually you don’t question that; you don’t look under the surface, under the hood,” he said.

Of course, Aleckson did just that. To him the puzzle seemed like a handy metaphor for the way information is digitally packed and unpacked, or encoded and decoded, as it zooms around the Internet.

It meshed, too, with a particular area of interest for the artist: the autostereogram, in which a 3-D image is encoded in a 2-D pattern. We know these best from the series of “Magic Eye” books that became popular in the ’90s. Again, it’s a matter of information (a three-dimensional image) being encoded (into seemingly random patterns of dots, in this case) and then decoded (in the brain, behind a pair of just slightly unfocused eyes).

This is all a rather convoluted introduction to what you’ll actually see in the gallery, where, in part, Aleckson has attempted to recreate an autostereogram in wood, by precisely carving sheets of plywood with a computer-controlled router. It doesn’t quite work. Stare at the gallery wall all you want, but you’re unlikely to make the image of the wooden puzzle appear “Magic Eye” style.

Even if they remain stubbornly two-dimensional, the sculptural elements of Aleckson’s project are attractive, particularly up close, where the router bites have left behind random patterns of color and texture in the wood. If Aleckson could get it to work, he’d really have something.

In the next gallery over, Justin Quinn presents a series of obsessive drawings and prints all made up of just one element: a capital E repeated over and over again.

It fills the pages of books, mimicking the patterns of words and paragraphs. In other images, it runs in long chains that loop and fold, or blasts outward in radiating patterns.

And it slowly works its way into your head. Eventually, the strings of Es start to read like onomatopoeia of a pervasive, high frequency squeal, like tinnitus ringing in your ears. 

Considering, though, the determination and endurance required to scratch out the same four lines literally hundreds of thousands of times — not to mention the meditative patience — it seems likely the sound in Quinn’s head is something along the lines of “Om.”