Engels The Artist
Born and raised in Haiti, Engels the Artist has been living in Brooklyn for more than three decades. For Engels, the canvas is a limited space that requires subversion, inversion, expansion, or containment. He engages in a sort of metonymic game, whereby the container becomes the contained, and the support becomes the object itself. The fabric of the canvas, the wood of the stretcher, and the metal staples are part of his iconography. Abstract and poetic, his sculptural paintings are both aesthetically appealing and profoundly meaningful. “The strict economy of line and texture, the use of everyday objects, and makeshift elegance recall my grandmother’s home in Port-au-Prince, which against all odds had splendor.” says the artist.
While Engels’s art is in dialogue with European and American art traditions such as abstraction, arte povera, conceptual art, and minimalism, to name a few, his work also contains spiritual elements and tackles Haitian historical and social themes. One of the key works in the exhibition, Cotton Pearl (2017), reflects the historical tension that accompanied the colonization of the Americas. The word cotton refers to the men and women who were brought from Africa in bondage to work the cotton fields, while pearl signifies Haiti in colonial times, when, because of its natural beauty and rich soil, it was considered the “pearl of the Caribbean.” The apparently calm surface of this while Cotton Pearl hides a world of conflict, as the large wall sculpture is in fact made of broken parts that seems about to explode.