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Kid and Play

Two artists embrace their inner child.


When Georgia artist Benjamin Jones was asked by the directors of 1708 to suggest a title for his show, he responded via e-mail, "What About Drawing." It was after all of the press releases were made and sent out promoting "Benjamin Jones: What About Drawing" that the misunderstanding was realized. Jones had wanted the title to be simply "Drawing," and had framed his e-mail in the form of a question. A similar sense of comical serendipity is found in Jones' 16 works on display.

Of these sixteen graphite and colored pencil drawings, not a single one looks like it took Jones more than a half an hour to complete. One or two cartoonishly rendered figures are central to each of his works. The characters face forward toward the viewer, sometimes confrontationally, sometimes quizzically. In the drawing entitled "Twins," Jones depicts an oddly chipper two-headed child beneath a mass of knotted lines. Each of the faces is yanking itself in an opposite direction of the other, and seems to be asking, while giggling, "Now how did this happen?"

Jones often chooses to include evidence of previously erased drawings in his completed works. In "Isolation Ward, Cell H," he uses these ghost lines to accentuate the ambiguity and angst in this skeletal figure drawing of a prisoner. The spontaneity of Jones' work is somewhat undermined by his curious habit of making his signature a fundamental part of the picture plane. Though it frequently acts as an anchor for the composition, it has the unfortunate effect of looking like a Paul Frank label.

Interaction is essential to the work of Virginia Commonwealth University Art Foundation Professor Tommy White. Each of his 12 acrylic on board panels contains smaller, interchangeable sub-panels, allowing the viewer to rearrange the composition to his or her liking. The imagery within the works is highly personalized childlike abstraction reminiscent of Paleolithic cave paintings. Some of the panels contain internal paths through which marbles are dropped, creating an unexpected pinball-game sound.

This invitation to play is a refreshing change in the normally hands-off environment of an art gallery. Somewhat less accessible, however, is White's subject matter. In "Miminiska Hand-Warmers," White places four large, iconic abstractions at the corner of a square panel. Four smaller interchangeable squares go on to form a cross in the center of the piece. A crude rendering of a skate found in one of the components gives the vague impression that the piece could be about a childhood trip to an ice rink.

Another work, "Combo Platters and Happy Meals," seems to be less a reference to an obscure narrative than a highly stylized way of playing house. The interchangeable parts within the roughly 4-foot-by-5-foot panel each contain a line drawing of a kitchen appliance, giving the work the feel of an educational puzzle for toddlers. S

Ben Jones' "What About Drawing?" and Tommy White's "Moving Pictures" will be hanging at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad St., through Nov. 27. 643-1708.

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