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.
For Luis De Jesus of the eponymous gallery on South La Cienega Boulevard, moving online has been an expansion rather than a limitation. When lockdown began, his staff was already redesigning the gallery’s website, so they added an “online viewing room.” “It’s like the second gallery that we don’t have,” De Jesus said, “It functions like an alternative space, a project space, and that to me is very exciting.”
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Chris Engman's Landscape for Quentin (2017) was acquired by The Battery in San Francisco, CA. The Battery is a private social club, a boutique hotel, a hub for music, arts, and literature, and a philathropic organization founded by Michael and Xochi Birch in 2014.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Chris Engman's photograph Prospect (2016) from his ongoing Prospect and Refuge series and Lia Halloran's drawing Andromeda, after Mollie O' Reilly (2017) from her ongoing series Your Body Is A Space That Sees were acquired by the Microsoft Art Collection in Redmond, WA. The Microsoft Art Collection was launched in 1987 by a committee made up of employees interested in collecting and displaying artwork created by artists from the community. Over the past quarter-century, the Collection has mirrored the corporation’s meteoric growth with nearly 5,000 artworks on display in over 130 buildings throughout North America.
Some of the most alluring art shows happening virtually this season. Chris Engman: Looking at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. Ongoing at viewingroom.luisdejesus.com
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles gives us a chance to be amused and fooled by Chris Engman’s photographs, that give you a sensation that what you see is three-dimensional paper sculptures. But no, my friends, don’t trust your eyes. Come close, and “touch” these framed photos with your eyes, and discover to your astonishment that you have been magically tricked.
A photographic image represents the transformation of the three-dimensional world onto a flattened picture plane. In our mind’s eye, we recreate the scene to understand the image. Many photographers are interested in the relationship between illusion and reality and the camera’s ability to collapse or expand space. In the 1970s and 1980s, photographers like Zeke Berman and John Pfahl fabricated interventions in the natural and man-made landscape that only cohered when seen from a specific vantage point— the exact spot where they placed their cameras.
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.
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.
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.
Chris Engman’s Prospect and Refuge teaches us not to trust our eyes. On display at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery through November 18, the exhibit unsettles our senses of depth and scale, interior and exterior, origin and reproduction. It ushers us into artificial spaces and then immerses us in the tropes of nature. Engman achieves his uncanny effects mainly by taking enormous, high-density photographs and then affixing them to walls, ceilings, floors, and objects in domestic rooms and workspaces...
Photographer Chris Engman invites you to enter a world within a world. His photography installation, titled Containment, is an immersive work that features images spanning the walls, ceilings, and floors of a specially constructed room. Upon stepping foot inside the space, you’re transported from a gallery setting to the middle of a bustling stream surrounded by a dense forest with trees cloaking most of the blue sky above.
Artist Chris Engman transports natural landscapes such as waterfalls, caves, and vast deserts to domestic interiors by securing large-scale photographs to the room’s walls, ceilings, and floors. “I believe photography derives its power precisely from the fact it can’t be entered, however much we may want to,” Engman tells Colossal. “When I make photographs I try to be mindful of this, even to exploit it.”
Prospect and Refuge, an ongoing series of work by photographer Chris Engman, investigates the medium of photography through complicated juxtapositions. this body of work explores the relationship between illusion and materiality, nature and the man-made universe, moment and memory. through engman’s documentation and detailed re-creation, the artist asks the viewer to consider how we understand photographs and how we experience the world.
In these days of digital magic, it’s rare to have an “Oh, wow!” moment looking at a photograph. When everything is possible, nothing is exceptional. But Los Angeles artist Chris Engman doesn’t rely on computer wizardry to create his weirdly surrealistic images. Instead, he constructs elaborate, labor-intensive installations, which he uses a camera to document.
Ink on Paper represents a temporary shift in Engman’s artistic practice from photographic documentation on environmental installation phenomena – records of processes and the passage of time – to a consideration of photographs themselves as an inherently false, mediated and distancing way to experience the world. By focusing not on outer constructions but on the photograph as a constructed challenge to perception, this new body of work continues Engman’s inquiry into the illusive and unknowable nature of reality.
A trompe l’oeil photograph may seem like an oxymoron — photographs are constantly fooling the eye with their verisimilitude. Yet in his exhibition at Luis De Jesus, L.A. artist Chris Engman has managed to create photographic images that evoke this playful artistic tradition while examining the mechanisms of their own presentation. They engage in a kind of generative navel-gazing: Photography has caught itself looking.
Imagine glancing quickly past photographer Chris Engman’s work, Transplant—where the entire image of a tree is constructed using panels of images—while in development. Is it any less real when you are unaware that it is a set of constructed images? Is it more false because the images are broken into smaller, square frames? Can you say, definitely, that the tree exists at all, despite being photographed in one place and constructed in another? These are all questions Engman forces the viewer to confront after his first, quick, absorbing glance, and all questions Engman himself considers in the process of developing his work.
Chris Engman's series Landscapes is based on the vast open spaces of Washington State outside of Seattle, where Engman lives. The title of the series, just like the images themselves, suggests one thing, while revealing many others. He has a show on at the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle until Christmas Eve 2010. This interview with Engman was done for the Talent Issue (#24) of Foam magazine which came out in September 2010.