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December 2019

Art that Pushes the Boundaries and Raises Important Questions

The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY will present “Art Got Into Me”: The Work of Engels the Artist, a ten-year survey of work by Engels the Artist, a Haitian-born, self-taught artist currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. The exhibition will be on view through December 22, 2019.


According to Dr. Patrice Giasson, the Alex Gordon Curator of Art of the Americas at the Neuberger Museum of Art, “Engels calls into question the very notion of what constitutes painting. Abstract and poetic, his sculptural paintings are both aesthetically appealing and profoundly meaningful.”  Dr. Giasson notes that while Engel’s art is in dialogue with European and American art traditions, his work contains spiritual elements mixed with Haitian historical and social themes.


Engels says he can create with anything, as “I did not get into art; art got into me.” He explains that he builds with “wood, paper, layers of paint. Stretchers lay bare. Canvas that is crumpled, torn, or shredded. Even staples can be more than simple fasteners and can function as paint.”


Engels’ work has been shown at FiveMyles Gallery in New York, and at Unix Gallery in New York and London. At Skoto Gallery, New York, he exhibited alongside the works of Bob Thompson and Richard Hunt. In a 2012 exhibition at Zane Bennett Gallery (Santa Fe, New Mexico) titled Latin American Art: A Contemporary View, Engels’ work was presented along with the work of major Latin American artists including Mexican Rufino Tamayo, Argentine Antonio Seguí, and Brazilian Tiago Gualberto.  The Black History Museum in Richmond, Virginia and the National Museum of Haiti in Port-au-Prince have exhibited Engels’ paintings.


Not only will visitors to the Neuberger Museum be able to view over 50 works by Engels the Artist, they will be able to meet him when he is in residence at the museum this fall, working with Purchase College students to create a piece that, when completed, will be moved to the Gordon Sculpture Park in Monkton, Vermont. “Thus, the usually formal space of the museum will be transformed into a site where objects are not just seen and studied but actually produced,” says Dr. Giasson.

Public studio visits with the artist are scheduled on Thursday, November 14 and Saturday, November 16 from 12:30 to 3:30 pm.


A monograph, with essays by artist Tom Otterness, Professor Julian Kreimer, School of Art+Design, Purchase College, and curator Patrice Giasson, accompanies the exhibition.


“What seem at first to be random expressionist clumps of oil paint,” says Otterness, “sometimes turn out to be intricate, painstaking micro-patterns done with a very fine brush. Engels approaches these strange materials on an equal footing with everything else he encounters in life, on the street.”


In his essay, Kreimer traces Engels’ artistic lineages including the postwar Continental movements that responded to the ruins left by war, and to the challenges of abstraction and Dada, as well as to the “New York tradition whose rubbish loving radicalism…celebrated the ephemeral and overlooked odds and ends of sidewalks and corner hardware stores.” But as we look at Engels’ works, notes Kreimer, “We are simultaneously aware that they are playing roles in the representation of another kind of experience, as parts of an abstract composition able to elicit a powerful emotional charge.”


Organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art in collaboration with the Willowell Foundation, “Art Got Into Me”: The Work of Engels the Artist is curated by Patrice Giasson, the Alex Gordon Curator of Art of the Americas, with the assistance of Cynthia Newman.


The Neuberger Museum of Art is located at 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase. Call 251-6100 for more information.