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Early in the 20th Century, artists began letting the medium speak for itself. Paint was paint. Metal was metal. And, while artists have pushed the boundaries of medium as medium to the extremes, it is still fertile ground for experimentation and expression. “Of Itself: Medium As Message” at the Athenaeum in Alexandria presents few surprises but is remarkably refreshing. That can be for its simplicity, as with  J.T. Kirkland’s polyacrylic on plywood and Christian Benefiel’s large rust drawing, and for its complexity, like Laurel Lukaszewski’s varied ceramic extrusions and Kevin Kepple’s meticulous swirls of glue and ink. The curators, of whom Kirkland is one, chose the artists who eloquently exude inherent and seductive qualities within their chosen media. The result is an exhibition of dualities: work that is slow and fast, geometric and organic, utilizing traditional media as well as nontraditional media and found objects.

“Of Itself: Medium As Message” is on view noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Sunday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday to Aug. 1 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince Street, Alexandria. Free. (703) 248-6800