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Review: No Dead Artists 

D. Eric Bookhardt on the 18th annual expo of contemporary art

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It has taken a while, but visual artists are finally starting to chart their own course once again. For too long, the art world seemed stuck in endless reruns of the late 1980s, when postmodernism first became dominant. New York and London still can seem like well-preserved art bubbles where it's always 1990, but emerging artists are increasingly focusing on the 21st century's resemblance to a virtual reality where pervasive digital, wireless devices and genetically engineered plants and animals resemble a disorienting series of magic tricks. In this 18th annual No Dead Artists expo, the works on view are diverse, and many reflect unsettling shifts in nature and culture.

  Terence Hannum's geometric abstractions with cryptic surfaces cobbled together from cassette recording tape recall geometric minimalism, but underscore our transition from tangible recording media to an age when music is downloaded and our hands never touch tape or vinyl. In Tom Wegrzynowski's Battle of Actium (pictured), pom-pom waving cheerleaders strut their stuff as a military firefight behind them underscores the similarity in how both wars and sporting events are presented as spectacles for mass consumption.

  Beyond its spooky discarnate qualities, digital media also is a realm where not only does everything seem possible, but where many things actually do happen at once as people wander like distracted zombies in their overstimulating bubble of devices. Don Manderson's colorful digital montage triptych Schism is three-ring vortex where clowns, acrobats, businessmen in suits and anyone and everyone else navigates a tangle of pulsating electronic signals, and it reflects what the artist calls the "simultaneous and insistent nature of our daily sensory experience in an increasingly technical society." Not only are we entangled in a strangely spectral world of overlapping visual and audio signals, we often are addicted to and overwhelmed by them. As this technological web comes into focus, artists have once again resumed their traditional roles as society's proverbial canaries in the coal mines.

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