By PHYLLIS BRAFF
Published: January 24, 1999
Conceptual Works I'
Nese Alpan Gallery, 1499 Old Northern Boulevard, Roslyn. Through Feb. 4.
Conceptual art can stretch the senses by combining overt intellectual content with assertive visual forms. This effective presentation concentrates on examples by three widely respected Long Island artists.
The pieces by Chris Coffin annex the universal fascination with weather and use its documentation as a basis for ideas that consider sequence, time and memory. One particularly successful project groups small black charts bearing multiple brilliantly colored lines that track meteorological details of storms in 1969 and 1998. Thoroughly compelling, these graphic components have an abstract resonance that interacts with the mental engagement in statistical interpretation.
Mr. Coffin's fondness for progression and systematization comes across nicely, too, in his sequential alignment of handsomely shaped and etched glass containers, each half-filled with Atlantic Ocean water and inscribed with the name of a hurricane that occurred in the last 30 years. Turbulence may be part of the content, but the harmonious control is admirably soothing. The artist's two videos recording the surf are also notable additions, especially because of the mesmerizing way they transform reality into sequences of generalized rhythms.
Barbara Roux likes to dramatize forest components in her installation pieces, which frequently activate the space beyond their specific physical dimensions. The example here, based on branches protruding from the gallery walls, incorporates strong shadow images that raise thoughts about illusions and hints rather gently at Ms. Roux's interest in the friction between human concerns and the unspoiled wilderness. She makes her point somewhat more strongly in a photograph of an elaborately framed mirror lying on a forest floor to capture the unseen sky and treetops.
Most visitors think first of magic and fantasy when they discover the
busy color and crowded dynamics of Seung Lee's installation ''Modern
Forest.'' Beyond the scores of suspended bugs wrapped in waxlike teardrops,
however, vividly painted old circuit boards and found-object constructions
deliver a message about waste. They also point to a contrast between
technology's precision and art's improvisation.
'Kathryn Marx: Rendez-Vous'
Port Washington Public Library,
1 Library Drive, Port Washington.
Through Feb. 28. 883-4400.
Poignant but decidedly unnerving, Kathryn Marx's series of self-portraits made after chemotherapy treatments is an important segment of this sizable show, which covers directions pursued by the Paris- and New York-based photographer in the 1990's. As high-impact interpretations of exaggerated facial contortions, many of these large, assertive black-and-white self-portraits call to mind the work of Bruce Naumann, especially in the way they tend to diminish the human quality of flesh by allowing it to be a pliable accessory in a pun.
Humor as an antidote for suffering is at the root of this group. There is a feeling that the artist is celebrating survival through her ability to be creatively manipulative with her hairless head. Two photographs, ''Trauma Mask I (Tragedy)'' and ''Trauma Mask II (Comedy),'' transcend their specificity to become haunting universal images.
''Incommunicado,'' incorporating an altered rotary telephone, is printed as a reverse negative that tends to emphasize a masklike countenance. Another series, much cooler in emotional temperament, creates masks with steel mesh cutout forms, blending characteristics of the still life with those of personification.
A number of color prints, many derived from nature, suggest experiments in pushing the photography medium. The most memorable are the complex pieces that encourage networks of tangled vines or irregularities in tree knobs to appear as hidden eyes and sinister presences.
Sag Harbor Picture Gallery, 66 Main Street, Sag Harbor. Through Feb. 28.
Elevated light contrasts are a principal expressive tool in black-and-white photography, all the more so when the images are silver prints. Gleaming gray tones can readily separate a subject from reality, allowing the artist to suggest a new orientation.
Daniel Jones demonstrates this well in a show that is substantially weighted toward the carefully studied eastern Long Island views for which he is best known but also introduces recent landscapes resulting from travels in Alaska, Utah, Maine and Montana. Mr. Jones's preference for large-format view cameras has facilitated subtly modulated images of big, cloud-filled East End skies, as well as a fine image of the textural details sensed during a total immersion in a leaf-canopied woodland trail.
Mr. Jones consistently comes across as a photographer trying to make each work a nuanced essay. Often the goal is to emphasize nature's overlooked but rich contrasts, like those between textured and smooth, hard and soft, or, in ''Low Tide, L.I.,'' between still forms and the motion of unstable mud along the tide line. A brilliant shine on a water pool contrasts with hazy mountains in a Montana scene, and the black-and-white scheme is compelling in an Alaska view that makes the snow on distant Mount McKinley seem part of the foreground. Mr. Jones is also consistent in the creation of solidly crafted compositions.
Favored themes are those that call attention to extraordinary effects. In ''Clouds Over Ocean, No. 1, Maine,'' for example, atmospheric tones and patterns cancel any depth illusion, providing a flat abstraction. Occasionally a work treats the interaction between man-made structures -- like a brick Romanesque building abutting a larger edifice of rough prairie board -- and highlights the resulting interaction between structures and the surrounding environment. Though quiet, everything is packed with visual messages about form, age, use and meaning.