Intothe summer swelter of Seventh Street comes a sparkling show: "Works on Paper by Washington Artists" at the Jane Haslem Gallery. They are recent works by 53 artists who are mastering the possibilities of paper. The medium breathes life into brush strokes. It glimmers through the paint, pencil or print.

The liveliness of paper can be seen in the translucent blush of a Leon Berkowitz pastel; in the bouncy, riveting red of a Willem DeLooper acrylic; in the orange highlights that glow like coals in Tom Nakashima's "Buddha," a watercolor of a haughty, gray-green man-god, filling the page and flowing from it.

There are exciting works here. Edith Kuhnle's refreshing untitled abstraction speaks to balance while seeming haphazard about it. Her colorful stripes, fronds and squares suggest an interior, if only of the mind. And Greg Hannan's "Ringmaster," although much closer to being representational, has a similar effect. It is about a balance struck between controlling force and untamed energy; the circus man, a blurred figure in fire-engine red coat, stands on one leg and balletically holds the other leg out toward a tornado just his size.

Another interesting piece is Tazuko Ichikawa's "Far and Close XII-1," a study in minimal abstraction that bares its Rothko roots while leaving room for a very reserved optical illusion: The wall-like background keeps lapping softly against the foreground.

Few artists in the show explore the traditional use of paper -- drawing -- but when they do, the draftsmanship is exemplary. Among them is Jeri Metz, whose pale, receding gray nude, her back to the viewer, is surrounded by an old window frame. On the frame are scratched the Pink Floyd lyrics that give the drawing its name: "The Lunatic Is in the Hall." Metz's drawing is as gentle as a whisper, but the message is disturbing.

Even fewer here explore paper itself. One who does is Jennifer Berringer, who achieves Robert Rauschenberg special effects in her soft-toned monoprint "Dream Sequence."

"Works on Paper by Washington Artists" will be at the Jane Haslem Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW, through Aug. 15. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

'Light' at Wallace Wentworth At the Wallace Wentworth Gallery, there are four ways of looking at light. Some work better than others.

Among the four artists in the "Light" show, Clyde Lynds makes the most intriguing statement with a pair of rock monoliths that hark back to Stonehenge. The steles are flecked with purple lights that slowly change like constellations. Call it the magic of fiber optics.

When Stephen Hannock puts a little light on the subject, it's black light that sets the night (and the dye in your clothes) aglow. His landscapes are just slightly improbable -- a wild lake lined with manicured bushes, Los Angeles without smog; his method is more so -- he works in the dark with black light, so he can see the phosphorescent paint. It's an attempt to elevate the banal that is too close to Day-Glo for comfort.

"What's It Like Outside?" is Ted Victoria's trick with mirrors and light -- a tiny window on which soaps and old movies are projected. It's a small presence -- and less harmful than TV.

Alice Lees' unisex neon cheerleaders have been seen about town (in an installation at the American Institute of Architects headquarters, for instance). Here they glow by leaps and bounds in a piece called "Yippee." The really strong point about her work is her architectural sense. Her energetic figures make a nice fit.

"Light" will continue at the Wallace Wentworth Gallery, 2006 R St. NW, through Aug. 1. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Gallery 10's 'Nightmares' "Nightmares," at Gallery 10, delves into an intriguing subject, but the show is a bit of a disappointment. One expects to find something like an Edvard Munch scream -- a possible reaction to a bad dream -- or some sociopolitical commentary with the power of Leon Golub's work. And with 39 artists participating, it would be possible to come up with a series of horrific, but very personal, worst fears -- the stuff of nightmares. But few of the artists shown here seem willing or able to make the emotional connection between psyche and subject.

This is not to say there aren't some successes in the show. Stacey Jones' "Foiled" is an ironically handsome relief piece, with copper-colored bricks and locks seen through forbidding black bars. In the way of dreams, Lauren McEleney's painting "Garlic for Tiffy" combines the real and the fantastic, surrounding the dreamer with an ocean of beings -- Indian gods, a porcine Hawaiian dancer, muscle men -- to wash up on the shore when the dreamer awakes. Just the sort of picture an evening of garlic bread would evoke.

A nightmare is something without a name. Maria Josephy's white assemblage "Nine Cells" borrows modules from Louise Nevelson. Josephy evokes a bizarre, nightmarish quality by filling some of the slots with blinky-eyed dolls wrapped like mummies, and other cubbyholes with the sorts of porcelain objects that accumulate in old hardware stores. In this colorless death dream, benign objects multiply malevolently.

How to wrestle with a nightmare? Percy Martin comes close to it in his print "Incubus Attack," where a smiling Klansman, priest and Mafioso are dead or alive and don't know which. Sidney Lawrence confronts it in his autobiographical fantasy construction "Nightmare About Aging and My Dead Father."

These works are well thought out and well executed. Others seem to have been just thrown together for the show and are a bit silly. Mary McCoy's "Severed Locks" consists of nothing more than a few pieces of hair strewn over a pile of small stones. "Emergence," by Marilyn Bromberg Banner, is a veiny fried egg covered with fuzz. And Ruth Gancie offers a pair of windows looking out on photos of Moammar Gadhafi and Oliver North and headlines of the latest horrors (AIDS, cocaine). The sentiments are appreciated, but the presentation is as trite as the news magazines the artist uses for the collages.

It's nothing that Thai food at 10 at night wouldn't cure.

"Nightmares" will be at Gallery 10, 1519 Connecticut Ave. NW, through Aug. 15. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.