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Bushwick Artist Bounces Back After Medical Scare for Chelsea Gallery Show

By Maya Rajamani | April 1, 2016 5:02pm | Updated on April 4, 2016 8:39am
 Michael Alan, 37, is showcasing his work at the Tanja Grunert Gallery in Chelsea.
Bushwick Artist Michael Alan
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CHELSEA — A week before his latest exhibit was scheduled to open, artist Michael Alan — who broke his spine after being hit by a car four years ago — had an allergic reaction to pain medication that landed him in the hospital.

Physicians had prescribed him a drug to deal with nerve damage and scar-tissue related ailments, but Alan, 37, who is allergic to morphine, was in so much pain he didn’t realize it was morphine-based.

“I was sleeping for three days, just asleep,” he said.

His solo exhibit, which opened at the Tanja Grunert Gallery at 524 W. 19th St. on Thursday night and runs through April 30, helped him move past the traumatic experience.

“To have this show for me is a really good moment, because I have to focus on withdrawing off the medicine… and just stay busy, keep my mind off the pain, and not end up back on medication,” he said.

Dozens of Alan’s drawings, oil paintings and collages are showcased in the exhibit — his sixth or seventh at the gallery, he said.

“Even through grammar school and high school, people would always say, that’s the kid who draws,” said Alan, who is well known for his “Living Installations” series. “That’s pretty much my whole life.”

A Bushwick native, Alan and his family moved around New York as he grew up. He lived in his family's house on Staten Island for many years before returning to Bushwick after flooding destroyed the basement apartment that doubled as his studio.

After the flood, Alan launched a fundraiser to help recoup his losses.

He raised around $7,000 in total — a portion of which he used to get a new studio space in Bushwick, since his former space on Staten Island proved "uninhabitable" after the flood.

He currently stays either with friends or with his mother, who still lives in the upper portion of the house on Staten Island.

He was unable to save thousands of pieces of his work damaged by the flood water, he said.

As Grunert and Alan sorted through the artist's works this week, the gallery owner described his pieces as “sensual.”

“It has a sensibility which you don’t find with a lot of younger artists,” she said. “The paintings, for Michael, are always very drawingly, and now his drawings are going to a direction where they get very painterly.”

Alan takes inspiration from his contemporaries — including street artists like Moody and Alan Ket — but has also been influenced by greats like Salvador Dalí and Gustav Klimt.

Much of his work, he said, reflects “the madness of life.”

“Some people… only want the good, but there’s good and bad, and there’s medium, and there’s gray, there’s sickness and there’s health, there’s happiness, there’s Coke, there’s Sprite, there’s millions of different things,” he said.

“That’s what my work is about. Accepting it all.”