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1708's current exhibitions are not what they seem, or claim to be.

House of Mirrors

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1708 is presenting "Physical Revelations" and "Beyond the Wall" in its first-floor exhibit space, two exhibitions that flow helpfully between one another, assuming supportive positions in subject matter. Tatiana Garmendia's solo installation in Gallery 1, "Physical Revelations," seems to nestle more naturally into Don Crow's statement of curatorial intention than do some of his selections for "Beyond the Wall."

Crow writes that the artists comprising that exhibition are obliged to ".... hold, if only for a moment, a more complete understanding of what it is to be human." This largesse is a little disorienting given the limited and spotty range of "Beyond." It is a seemingly random assortment of art that does not collectively consider the premise of humanity as a specific intellectual quest.

But, despite this, the entire first-floor gallery experience is partly an existential house of mirrors with you as its ticket holder. Stand before Garmendia's 28 ethereal graphite and metal-leaf detail renderings of skeletons, and you are revealed as a beautiful contour of calcium and carbon. In these sfumato X-rays, the soft, moist perfection of your youth and beauty is a narcissism as temporary as a water bead.

The middle gallery might be identified as the Genesis area, for that is certainly the rambunctious event of Brad Birchett's series of original paintings. Like an archetypal creation myth that includes a footnote on Willem de Kooning and Joan MirĀ¢, these four various-sized, finely built and layered paintings require some moments spent unraveling and seeing through them in order to observe their greater applications. Birchett doesn't make this easy for his ticket holders in his largest work, "Goodbye to the Future," which eclipses the whole room with its insistent vagina outline that is also an eye, a repeated motif in Birchett's painting.

Maja Anzulovic's "Cowgirl," a small ceramic figure with lots of teats, plus a girl's head and two pairs of red high heels, is reminiscent of one of those porcelain cow creamers often found in kitchen shops. "North Carolina Ridgeback" is a Rebar-and-steel ostrich-y creature with a nice found skull also boasting a well-equipped dairy bar. I really could do without these two particular sculptures which, except for their mammalian credentials, do not seem to be made by the same person. I feel they reduce the complexity of Birchett's work as well.

In the small Annex gallery is the grand finale, Susann Whittier's two extraordinary wall hangings. Casting animated shadows on the wall behind, "Fauna" is an impish tussle of pigtail fountains and split crowns of human hair. It is also a Real Surprise, and those are hard to come by these days. Beyond it is "Flora," as slender and indiscrete as its sister piece; its purely vertical sectional clay branches are beaded onto monofilament that is attached to the ceiling. "Flora" is a suspended landscape of mystery and grace, the tinkling entrance to the fortuneteller's door.

Lorelei Novak shares the room with some nice landscapes. "Permission to Dream" is an imaginary architectural construction in languid blues and greens, and "Three Little Words" is a small cryptic triptych made of gentle washes of color and barely perceptible presences.

These works may or may not be mirrors of human existence or moments of complete understanding, but they facilitate the exercise as the instrumental smoke of the

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