This solo exhibition in New York by the Haitian-born artist Engels shows wall constructions made with paper, layers of paint, found objects, wood and canvas. This work shows Engels’ sure eye for details that will form a unit. These solid constructions have the authority of a finished work; they non-the-less reveal the process of how they came to be this way. For Engels they resemble a journey, still on-going and not afraid of detours.
Engels describes his work as abstract figuration or modern spiritual. Some of the works on view include photographs contrasted with the ephemeral strokes of a brush dipped in paint – the artist’s fascination with a kind of synthesis of the seen and the unseen – for him the underlying spirituality in modernism. Engels’ mastery of form, textures, colors, objects and built environments within the work, reveals his sense of the sacred found in ordinary things, brought out by provocative juxtapositions.
The sculpture Engels 09 is included in the exhibition. A pair of worn-out jeans, covered with dried paint, its legs filled with stuffing and with shoes attached to them, is tightly packed into a wooden frame, like a packing case. An unnerving work that conjures up an image of bondage, of packaged humanity. By standing it on one of his constructed works that combines an ornate picture frame with a piece of mirror, the work is freed of its enslaved isolation and becomes an ode to painting.
In Haiti Engels’ work has been exhibited in the National Museum and at Au Salon des Artists, both in Port-au-Prince. In New York he has had his work included in exhibitions at the James Cohan Gallery, the Skoto Gallery, BWAC, the Brecht Forum, among other venues.