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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles: Chris Engman

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. Notable solo exhibitions include Prism at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; Land and Image: Chris Engman 2002-2022, at Museum of Art and History (MOAH), Lancaster, CA;  Prospect and Refuge at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Additional exhibitions include the FotoFocus Biennial 2018: Open Archive, Cincinnati, OH; 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, Costa Mesa, 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.

According to Jay Appleton’s theory of prospect and refuge, two of our most basic and deep-rooted needs are for opportunity and shelter. We are attracted to those landscapes or environments that would seem to afford both, and we are wary of those that would seem to withhold either. This plays a role, if an unconscious one, in our experience of the environment and in our aesthetics. 


In Prospect and Refuge, Engman continues his investigations into the medium of photography. He uses imagery from nature, combining this with architectural imagery to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. Natural light is combined with artificial light, geometry is combined with wilderness, and, as always in Engman's work, the relationship between illusion and materiality is explored. In the process this work considers and questions notions of habitation, landscape, and the natural environment.

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