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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.

Landscape Interventions (Black and White)

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Chris Engman The Claim, 2006

Chris Engman
The Claim, 2006
Digital pigment print
36 x 50 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Library, 2006

Chris Engman
The Library, 2006
Digital pigment print
36 x 50 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Empty House, 2006

Chris Engman
The Empty House, 2006
Digital pigment print
36 x 48 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Playground, 2006

Chris Engman
The Playground, 2006
Digital pigment print
40 x 48 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Disappearance, 2006

Chris Engman
The Disappearance, 2006
Digital pigment print
20 x 16 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman Transplant, 2005

Chris Engman
Transplant, 2005
Digital pigment print
48 x 36 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman Equipoise, 2005

Chris Engman
Equipoise, 2005
Digital pigment print
48 x 36 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Consumation, 2005

Chris Engman
The Consumation, 2005
Digital pigment print
38 x 28 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Meeting, 2004

Chris Engman
The Meeting, 2004
Digital pigment print
40 x 48 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Audience, 2004

Chris Engman
The Audience, 2004
Digital pigment print
40 x 48 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman The Artist as an Explorer, 2002

Chris Engman
The Artist as an Explorer, 2002
Digital pigment print
42 x 21 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Chris Engman Ode, 2002

Chris Engman
Ode, 2002
Digital pigment print
42 x 21 in.
Edition of 6, 2 AP

Much of this work takes place in the desert and has by its gravity kept him going back. The place, for him, has a psychologically charged but neutral energy, like an unformed dream or empty canvas waiting to be acted upon.

For inspiration, in addition to the desert, he turns to books: epic novels, epic histories, and fiction rich in visual imagery. He especially appreciate thinkers who address the grandest of human themes, which are also his themes: grandeur and the ordinary, struggle and futility, illusion and disillusionment, meaningfulness, age, and death.

Working in the desert has come to be a form of meditation. Days are spent, sometimes with a crew but more often in solitude, wordlessly driving, carrying supplies, erecting structures and sets, and studying the slow progress of the sun overhead and its all-powerful, shape-changing, comfort-giving and –taking effects. His state of mind while working can range from joy and contentedness to emptiness and doubt, and he believe these shifting emotions, intensified by an intense place, carry through into the best of his eventual photographs.

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