TO MARCH 30

Attendees of the Washington Project for the ArtsCorcoran’s 10th biennial exhibition of emerging local artists at the Millennium Arts Center could be forgiven if they leave thinking that the New York vs. D.C. debate has finally run out of steam. Yeah, yeah, D.C.’s smaller, more provincial, etc., etc. But if “Options 2002” demonstrates one thing only, it is that the younger generation of D.C. artists has firmly—and finally—joined the contemporary-art-world conversation. Showcasing installations, video, paintings, sculpture, computers, and recorded performance pieces, “Options 2002” rocks the former schoolhouse in which it is set. Each of the 15 artists was assigned a classroom—or length of hallway—by curator Victoria Reis, capitalizing on an unusual amount of display room for a group show. And it works perfectly. In one hallway, Ryan Nelson’s strongly rendered cartoon-style paintings (Seeing Nothing is pictured) of sardonic slices of contemporary life wring wry humor out of comic, poignant moments. In a large classroom, Alessandra Torres lays armless, 3-foot female figures—sculpted of porcelain and variously dressed and undressed in soiled and clean tights—on medical gurneys in an arcing narrative of despoilment and ecstasy; tights and sacks hang from the walls while flour covers the ground in the white-on-white room, affecting the viewer as surely as the creatures in this strangely clinical room have themselves been marked. Down the hall, James Busby’s paintings in a palette of grays and orange suggest Richter but also speak strongly to a personal loss—his mother’s recent death from cancer. Most of the artists on display show strong work, but even the derivative or less interesting pieces are a welcome postmodern sight: No thickly painted nudes. No landscapes. It’s a sign of just how far Washington has come in the past few years. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, to Saturday, March 30, at the Millennium Arts Center, 65 I St. SW. Free. (202) 479-2572. (Garance Franke-Ruta)