Chris Engman’s photographic illusions dazzle

Exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery showcases artist’s visual oxymorons.

Conceptual art — art where ideas, usually subversive ideas, are front and center — can alter the way you see the world around you. When conceptual art also has a lot going on in it technically, you get the best of both worlds.

At Greg Kucera Gallery, “Chris Engman: Equivalence” explores startling concepts with a tour-de-force mastery of the Los Angeles artist’s chosen medium: photography. Engman’s work falls into two groups: trompe l’oeil illusions involving simple objects (a crumpled sheet of paper, a stack of cinder blocks) and more elaborately staged conflations of indoor and outdoor environments.

Both produce extraordinary results. But his pigment prints in which man-made interiors (studios, apartment corridors, outbuildings) and sweeping natural exteriors (forests, deserts, seascapes) interpenetrate one another are especially dazzling.

Exhibition Review

‘Chris Engman: Equivalence’ and ‘Dan Webb: The Visitors’

10:30 a.m.-5:30 a.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Oct. 28. Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S., Seattle (206-624-0770 or

“Landscape for Quentin” has a doors-of-perception feel to it. Rippling sand dunes become, in the center of the photograph, a corridor with a bright electric light overhead, a bathroom on the left and, in the rear, a sparsely furnished room. The very door frames are extensions of drifting desert sands. The image is at once architectural and organic: a visual oxymoron.

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In “Equivalence,” a corner room coincides with a vaporous cloudscape, creating a double-natured realm for the mind to inhabit. In “Prospect,” a seascape expands from within a toolshed. In “Refuge,” a house interior overgrown with scraggly woods confounds the eye.

On his website, Engman explains how he uses photographs-within-photographs to create these marvelous illusions: “In the piece titled ‘Refuge,’ 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 printed onto a single sheet of photo paper.”

Engman isn’t indulging in trickery for trickery’s sake.

“Two of our most basic and deep-rooted needs are for opportunity and shelter,” he…

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