For more than a few contemporary artist, the sensation that art critic Robert Hughes once described as “the shock of the new” has given way to the allure of the old. Among the inspirations for Francie Hester’s “Symbolic Spaces,” at the Athenaeum, are bi discs, unearthed from Chinese graves bug as many as 5,400 years ago. Where the originals are mostly jade or glass. Hester’s freshly manufactured “Relics” are aluminum, covered in acrylic and wax. The same shapes and ingredients recur in most of the other work.