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The Stuff That Creativity Is Made Of :: NY TIMES Art Review


Published: April 8, 2007

The Alpan Gallery has often pursued interesting, noncommercial visual art projects in the shadow of the Heckscher Museum and other Long Island public art institutions. In October, the gallery, which was founded in Roslyn by Nese Karakaplan in 1987 and moved to Huntington about five years ago, officially became a nonprofit art space.

The designation allows Alpan to apply for foundation grants, have art-school interns and develop its three-year-old artist-in-residence program. The change of status is significant for Long Island, where there are few privately operated nonprofit contemporary-art spaces.

The advantages of such sites include the potential for more dynamic programming. Artists with a dedicated project space and financing for exhibitions are usually freer to take risks and explore the possibilities of their ideas.

The latest installment in the galleries, which occupy 1,000 square feet in a residential building, is "Unlikely Materials," organized by Ms. Karakaplan, who is occasionally a curator here. It is a thoughtful mixed-media group exhibition combining the work of nine artists, a mix of local residents and New York art-world darlings. Together it provides an entertaining snapshot of artists working with unusual materials in interesting ways.

Sculpture predominates, with several artists producing wall-based pieces from found and discarded materials. Among the artists based in New York, Hyungsub Shin has a freehand weaving that transforms thousands of strands of tiny colored electrical wire into rootlike structures that spread over the wall. Walk up close and the real delight is revealed: the intricacy of the execution. This is one of the most inventive pieces here.

Nature and the environment are integral to other works. Spiraling up a wall is "Dreaming Plant" by Jae Hi Ahn, a magical free-flowing vine made out of sections of PVC tubing, while Elizabeth Bourne Knowles has cut and pasted together X-ray prints to make a beautiful flower arrangement. These simple, eloquent works, both by artists based in New York, layer references to Pop Art and Minimalism with a poetic use of materials.

Katie Seiden of Sea Cliff has created a new series of wall works out of found and discarded materials, altered to resemble mysterious primitive-looking objects, complemented by a touch of irreverence. One of the pieces here consists of nails stuck onto a trowel, while another, pleasantly surprising piece is nothing more than a sinuous, graceful collection of locks and keys on a chain.

Appropriately, the show includes works by Miwa Koizumi, a New York-based artist originally from Japan who is known for making organic sculptures from melted plastic water bottles. Several of them are shown here, including one or two made from green bottles. They are light in feeling, delicately displayed under bell jars like botanical specimens.

Another artist whose work is fairly well traveled in the metropolitan area is Tina Roche-Kelly of New York, who is exhibiting a quilt made from what look like the bottom sections (here and there you can see the printed trademark symbols) of hundreds of plain brown paper lunch bags. Consumerism provides the basic metaphors -- packaging, waste, disposability -- though there is an unexpected decorous quality to the work. It is actually rather beautiful.

The abundance of artwork competing for the viewer's attention in a relatively small space makes the exhibition seem a little overstuffed, and even a bit cramped. There are simply too many artists in this show. The open-plan layout of the gallery is better suited to single-artist projects than to this type of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink group show.

But over all there is enough thoughtful work here to make a visit worthwhile.

"Unlikely Materials," Alpan Gallery, 2 West Carver Street, Huntington, through April 28. Information: (631) 423-4433 or at www



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