A trompe l’oeil photograph may seem like an oxymoron — photographs are constantly fooling the eye with their verisimilitude.
Yet in his exhibition at Luis De Jesus, L.A. artist Chris Engman has managed to create photographic images that evoke this playful artistic tradition while examining the mechanisms of their own presentation. They engage in a kind of generative navel-gazing: Photography has caught itself looking.
At a minimum, the photos are neat tricks. “Surface” looks like a frame filled with shredded paper but is actually a photograph of the same. The elegant “Disruption” depicts a life-size piece of photo paper that has been partially cut and peeled back to reveal the brand signatures on its back.
Perhaps most beguiling is “Corner Cube,” a photograph of a white cube protruding from a corner. The image itself is folded into a corner of the gallery so that the cube looks as if it is actually protruding into our space but is really just a flat surface.
As photographs of structures created for the camera, Engman’s images trouble the primacy of “real” experience. At the same time, they don’t make much sense in reproduction — you kind of have to be there.
In a world where nearly every image now arrives through a pulsing screen, they force us to consider exactly what it is we’re looking at and whether it is a lie.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 838-6000, through May 10. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.luisdejesus.com