A magnetic resonance measurement technique was developed to characterize the transient mechanical response of a gel cylinder subjected to angular acceleration. The technique employs tagged magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) synchronized to periodic impact excitation of a bulk specimen. The tagged MRI sequence provides, non-invasively, an array of distributed displacement and strain measurements with high spatial (here, 5 mm) and temporal (6 ms) resolution. The technique was validated on a cylindrical gelatin sample. Measured dynamic strain fields were compared to strain fields predicted using (1) a closed-form solution and (2) finite element simulation of shear waves in a three-parameter "standard" linear viscoelastic cylinder subjected to similar initial and boundary conditions. Material parameters used in the analyses were estimated from measurements made on the gelatin in a standard rheometer. The experimental results support the utility of tagged MRI for dynamic, non-invasive assays such as measurement of shear waves in brain tissue during angular acceleration of the skull. When applied in the inverse sense, the technique has potential for characterization of the mechanical behavior of gel biomaterials.