Alpan Gallery by Phyllis Braff

A contributor to the cultural community for 23-years, the Alpan Gallery came to be regarded as a venue that offered a wide range of current ideas in the arts. Many people were initially introduced to the breadth of contemporary art through its exhibitions, and many looked forward to its presentations of new trends and provocative experimentation.

The gallery cultivated its role broadly. There were international competitions that brought diversity while at the same time encouraging talented artists and providing opportunities for very direct cultural exchanges. There were lectures that expanded the gallery audience range while also expanding intellectual stimulation. On one occasion Professor Donald Kuspit spoke on "Non-Objectivity as a Crisis of Subjectivity," and on another, Professor Arthur Danto discussed "Post Historical Art." Exhibition themes intentionally reached for new definitions and sometimes broke barriers. Unlikely Materials, for example, was a group show designed to provoke new thoughts about our responses to sculpture, and The Grid, also a group show, was intended to underscore how an orientation toward structure could yield unpredictable, restless optical energy. Other gallery projects directed visitor focus toward installation art, conceptual art, and toward new directions in photography.

Gallery history transitions through several phases. After its developmental years at a smaller site in Roslyn, Alpan relocated in 2001 to downtown Huntington where it could benefit from a broader audience and from proximity to a number of universities and other educational institutions. Once it became a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) in 2006 it could more thoroughly develop its vision through an international residency program, internships, an online artist registry, guest-curated exhibitions, a film program and a wider range of public events. The six-week residencies led to in-gallery presentations of just-realized projects.

The gallery's encouragement of discourse was a welcome contribution. Over the years it championed the consideration of new trends and promoted a sensitivity toward contemporary artists' understanding of color, form, space, material and message. Messages could be sharp and timely. Visitors often discovered engaging metaphors for such human concerns as nature, politics, and lifestyles. A show devoted to Community Construction raised questions about urban transformation, and Of Nature directed attention to the politicization of environmental issues. Some exhibitions were designed to be interactive with gallery visitors or with sidewalk traffic.

A decade separates two particularly outstanding memories of the gallery's offerings. Celebrating Diversity (1998) carefully assembled conceptual art, mixed-media and photography to reflect the current avant-garde. The Notion of Line (2008) explored mark making, blurred the distinction between writing and drawing, and also featured a magical installation of lines suspended in space.

It was the range of the Alpan's interests that captured the public's attention, lent distinction to its accomplishments and now generates appreciation for its history.

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