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Is that Art?

1708’s newest show takes the pulse of contemporary art.

“We wanted to take the pulse of what was happening in the art world,” says Beal, whose installation was part of the first biennial. “We wanted to bring new stuff to Richmond, not to deliberately include or exclude local artists. It says a lot that at least half are Virginia artists.”

The exhibit presents a sampling of work in the newest media. Baldes, who received his master’s degree in electronically integrated arts, is enthusiastic about a collaborative piece by New York video artists Darrin Martin and Torsten Z. Burns. Distorting audio feeds and fragmenting visual imagery, the artists present abbreviated sequences of teaching scenarios.

“I think it’s making its own language; it’s visually pretty different,” Baldes says. “There’s a barrage of colors and ideas. … signifiers that send you off to think about your own thing. MTV and its barrage of images — that stimuli — does not allow you to go anywhere. This lets me have my own logic.”

Rosemary Williams and Yumi J. Roth, another New York-based duo, also confront gallery goers by installing a bench that whispers intimate secrets collected from strangers.

VCU students Llewellyn Hensley, Meesha Len’ote Giles and Christopher Westhoff re-contextualize ordinary objects, prompting us to reconsider the meanings we ascribe to certain things. Hensley scans security envelopes at high-resolution accentuating the poetic qualities of the blue color and textural beauty of the design. Giles transforms found objects into evocative forms by creating topographical landscapes out of recycled plastic grocery bags. Westhoff stacks $1,000 worth of singles, beginning with crisp ones and ultimately arriving at a fluffy upper layer of worn bills. The sculptural and aesthetic value is undeniable, causing us to reflect upon our views of money and the values we assign it.

The works in “Pulse 2004” are more than just visually engaging. Like the artists in the Whitney Biennial who push the boundaries of art, these artists challenge us with fresh alternatives to traditional artistic production. — Nicole De Armendi

“Pulse 2004” will be on view at 1708 Gallery from Friday, May 7 – Saturday, May 29.

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