Chris Engman’s work takes the human condition as its central theme and calls attention to our misperceptions: the gulf that exists between how we see and how we think we see—the inconstant and constructed nature of memory. It is a meditation on impermanence and the fact that not only existence but even the features of the physical world are temporal and will come to an end. Engman’s photographs are documentations of sculptures and installations but they are also records of actions and elaborate processes.
The tension between illusion and material is exhibited in these works most notably through the various ways in which paper in used to construct images. In Refuge (2016), for example, the image of the wooded scene was printed onto more than 150 pieces of paper and then physically cut and affixed to walls and objects within an architectural space. The room itself was then photographed and the resulting image was printed onto a single sheet of photo paper. In the first phase of installation, the physical properties of paper are acknowledged. With the final photograph (and this applies to most photographs), everything about its presentation is designed to deny that the paper exists at all. What is emphasized is the illusion, or the lie.
Chris Engman was born 1978 in Seattle, WA. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA Engman received his MFA from USC Roski School of Fine Arts in 2013 and BFA from the University of Washington in 2003. In 2020, Engman will be the subject of solo exhibition at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA. Recent exhibitions include the FotoFocus Biennial 2018: Open Archive, Cincinnati, OH; Prospect and Refuge at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; Second Sight: New Representations in Photography, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; The Claim, High Desert Test Sites, Joshua Tree, CA; Staking Claim: A California Invitational at the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA; and NextNewCA at the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA. Engman's work is held in collections internationally, including Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Houston Fine Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; Sir Elton John Collection, Atlanta, GA; Microsoft Collection, Seattle, WA; the Cleveland Clinic Collection, Google Cloud Collection, as well as numerous corporate and private collections.
In Culver City, I stopped by Luis de Jesus Los Angeles, to see the exhibition of Los Angeles photographer Chris Engman. The trademark of his art is fooling your eye not once, not twice, but many times. And the more his art fools you, the more pleasure it delivers. At the entrance to the gallery, you are confronted by a full-scale installation made out of several vinyl photographs that make you believe you are stepping into water, walking through a forest, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Refraction features Containment, a site-specific work originally commissioned for the FotoFocus Biennial 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as new photographs from the Prospect and Refuge and Ink on Paper series. These various photographic projects range from architectural to sculptural to two-dimensional, each acknowledging strategies of seeing. Refraction explores the relationship between illusion and reality by exposing the deceit inherent in photographic image-making while engaging in philosophical and material play around slips in translation.
To say that Los Angeles-based artist Chris Engman’s photographs are trompe l’oeil illusions would be a gross understatement. Created through an elaborate and time consuming physical process, his work evocatively merges indoor and outdoor environments into mesmeric compositions that both perturb and dazzle viewers with their non-binary disposition.
Who doesn’t love a good magic trick?! Photographer Chris Engman masterfully demonstrated that augmented reality and light projections are not the only way to create mesmerizing perspective illusions. Good old traditional photography will get you there as well if you’re creative enough. Chris Engman transformed 2D landscape photos into awe-inspiring rooms, where each inch is covered with prints to give off a 3D perspective.
Photographer Chris Engman is one of his landscape photos at a large scale in an unusual way: instead of showing it as a 2D print, Engman transformed a room into his photo by covering the wall, ceilings, and floors with prints.It’s essentially what you’d get if you used a projector to project the photo into the space, except he used prints instead of light.