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Joe Cupani's 'Recollections of a Street Kid' at Barnes Gallery

Garden City resident's art reception draws a crowd.

Joe Cupani’s “Recollections of a Street Kid” reception drew a crowd at Barnes Gallery.

While people admired Cupani’s work, they listened to the jazz sounds of John and Peter Coco, owners of the Music Academy of Garden City and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres by Prime Fine Catering next door.

Witty titles accompanied the 15 or so large, acrylic paintings. In addition, Cupani, a Garden City resident, entertained each visitor with stories connected with each painting.

Cupani, an Elvis Costello look-alike, talked about a nostalgia-filled painting. “Let’s Do Lunch 1960” is Milton’s Luncheonette on East Fourth Street. “This is my favorite painting. I ate lunch there. Milton was an African-American beatnik who had a Malcolm X goatee," he said. "The place had a legit 1959-60 piano player.”

Another painting, “Neighborhood Coke Dealer 1960,” evokes memories for Cupani. “Leo, he was a Jewish immigrant who had a candy store. He made great egg creams," he said. "It was such a simple life we had back then.”

At the reception, Timmy, eight, liked “The Family Car 1958,” a painting of the BMT subway line in Manhattan. He came to the reception with his mom because “I’m very interested in subways and did you know that New York has the biggest subway system in the world?” he asked.

Cupani’s journey to Barnes Gallery started with a small accident. The creative director who has worked with several Manhattan ad agencies and is a jazz musician said, “I started painting because I cut my finger and couldn’t play guitar, so I bought some paint and started painting as a creative outlet … My work comes from a deep emotional experience living on the lower east side of New York in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s all from memory and I try to get to a life truth. [My paintings have] a surreal quality to them, with attention to abstract shapes within the subject matter. I like to go back in time.”

Cupani’s influence is from the Ashcan School, especially the work of Edward Hopper and John Sloan, which is evident in his paintings with color choice and bold statements.

Cupani studied at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and at City College. He continues his studies at the Art League of Long Island (ALLI) in Dix Hills with painter Joe Bucci and he has a studio in Brooklyn Heights.

“Joe has a very creative and nostalgic insight regarding his growing up in N.Y.C. His work is museum quality,” said Bucci.

“We paint together and have a fun time … You’re looking at the future of a very important painter. You’d better collect now!” ALLI classmate Arline Wood added.

Cupani’s paintings will be shown through Sept. 30 at Barnes Gallery. Call 516-538-4503 for more information. For information on Cupani visit www.JoeCupani.net.

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