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JULES ENGEL

ANYTHING BUT STILL!

Paintings - Color Lithographs - Drawings - Sculpture
March 10th through April 28th 2001

Jules Engel is noted internationally for his contributions to film and abstract animation. Simultaneously, he has been creating works of art in other media, notably, a recent suite of 14 color lithographs and a series of new drawings. These works parallel the inherent wit, rhythms and masterful visual design found in his abstract films.

Earlier works represent the progression of Engel's creativity overtime. Big Top, a gouache painting from 1945, is remarkable in its use of color nuances, dynamic patterning and fine technique. Early figurative rhythmic drawings evolve into abstract kineticism over the years. He moves smoothly from the easel to the drawing board, from the space of projected films to the added physical dimension of collage. Engel even engages in social commentary in Hillside Living in Beverly Hills and other wood constructions of 1988/1990.

Jules Engel was the founding director of the Experimental Abstract Animation program at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in 1970, a position he maintains today. He has won numerous prestigious awards throughout the world for his films. His films and paintings are in collections, private and public, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Engel has been an influential and masterful artist in Los Angeles since 1937. We celebrate his art, both early and recent, in this exhibition.

Visual material available upon request.


ANYTHING BUT STILL!

March 17 to April 28, 2001

The Meadow (Tumbling)  Crayon and ink  1995
6 1/2 x 8 inches (16.5 x 20.3 cm)

EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION...ART IN MOTION

I have concentrated, with particular emphasis, upon the development of a visually inspired, dynamic language, demonstrating that pure graphic choreography is capable of non-verbal truth. I have chosen to convey ideas and feelings through movements, visually formed by lines, squares, spots, circles and varieties of colors.

My overture to the art of movement emanated from watching the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During their classical performances I discovered the artistry of movement found in the dance. Through the choreography of George Balanchine and the magnificent fluidity of their great dancers including Tamara Toumanova, Danilova, David Lichine and Leonide Massine, my own vision began to emerge. Viewing the spectacular unity of body, choreography and music, all with perfect precision, displayed infinite possibilities of gesture.

With the modern dance of Martha Graham, I perceived how contemporary art could lead the way for new visions in movement, where emotional low and counterpoint would prove equally stunning

I have been inspired by painters Kandinsky and Mondrian, sculptors like David Smith, Chillida and Calder's perpetually moving mobile's - fluidity in design, color and abstraction WITH structure. A theatrical production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya might stimulate reflective creativity about Time and Structure infused with Conversational Rhythms.

Big Top  Gouache  1945
15 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches (39.4 x 52.1 cm)

On the other end of the gamut, I may become deeply inspired by watching the great athletes compete, Florence Joyner (Flo Jo) running track. edging around a curve, takes on a poetic framework of all consuming motion and grace, visually displaying gentle strength and all the paradoxes of endurance and joy. Her movement in itself is the expression which gives us both an aesthetic and an emotional experience.

Movement is the content. Don't merely look at a movement, FEEL it.
Movement is the feeling.
Movement should include `pause and silence',
And Movement emerges, only then to disappear.
Movement implies advance-and reinforces with retreat.
Movement is contrast that features agreement-and disagreement.
Movement is As own dialogue as lines `converse'.
Movement offers `after image', as in my film RUMBLE, where the picture is imprinted in our vision which retains the penetrating impact after we've turned away.
Movement is revolutions .... sequential abstract shapes 'speeding' through a peripherally sensed landscape, as in film TRAIN LANDSCAPE.
Movement is action; our responses to it may be affected by our own state of mind as well as by the purely kinetic qualities of that motion.

My work is abstract, but it contains an organic element that brings people close to their inner feelings. It doesn't `explain'; within feeling, one can discover answers.

Conductors. composers and musicians have described my work as musical through the composition, timing and direction that they sense. They are moved by the rhythm and by the `complete, fulfilling process'. This is so interesting to me, as I do not rely on music as a starting point. Since 19 69, I have animated more than thirty abstract films, adding the scores to m y films at their completion; I prefer to d o the graphic choreography from my own sense of timing instead of a predetermined sound or musical score. In my films, `sound score' is often far more appropriate, since a formal musical composition is not always necessary to provide enhancement, nor is it the basis of stimulus.

Dance of the Reed Flutes (Fantasia)  Blue pencil  1939
9 x 12 inches(22.9 x 30.5cm)

I have, however, done 'film to music'. In 1938 the Disney Studio asked me to storyboard the Chinese and Russian Dances for the movie FANTASIA. After consideration, I chose to approach the characters as abstract shapes; giving them proper movement in a small, specific space was not a problem. Actually, the only problem was to have the Disney Studio accept a black background without any texture in it!  Rhythm and motion are greatly enhanced by the black background;.shapes appear to move as if they are in infinite space. Black becomes a force, a certain energy, specific to itself.
 

By the use of color, lines could be in an active or passive state, near or distant. The industry was timid about using color in the same fashion as the contemporary painters. But, as an original member of the U PA Studio, we created a place that could be innovative with the use of color and expand the medium artistically.

Color can create space, it can project the coming scene /situation; it can be dramatic or expressive for any form or implication.
Color is energy.
Color can be the subject, thread or issue. Color can be decorative, enhancing.
Color can be graceful, fluid.
Color can be serene or aggressive. Color can be heard.

Whether discussing color or sound or any of the components, it is necessary to test, to heighten what is known, and to move forward.

Experimental film has a magnificent opportunity to investigate Space and Time choreography, to compose in Space for Infinite Space, to expand diminishing forms, and even cause the disintegration of forms. Composing in Space also encompasses the flow of movement, simultaneous rhythms, instant presence, and forms that interpenetrate. Successive, transformable and ephemeral forms may disappear and then `re'form in an unending progression. You may arrest motion, slow motion, fragment images, change the surface of the screen, and employ cubist composition. The potential is infinite. I am presented with the avenues to move forward, to control, to evolve, to finalize.

My work is not realized through mathematical formulas or theories. It is gained through visual `trial and error'. It is a process of perception, a process of creative discovery.

© Jules Engel

Sculpture Garden  Acrylic and ink  1968
26 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches (67.3 x 52.1mm)

JULES ENGEL has been demonstrating aesthetic strengths throughout his career. From his early drawings capturing ballet movements for animated films, as in Fantasia, to his very recent series of color lithographs, these powers have been sustained and growing.

In 1939/1940 Engel entered the next decade with space-enhancing Circles I and Circles II and then began a paintings series that brought architecture and fractured space onto the two dimensional surface, as in Big Top and Untitled. It is an exciting contrast in expression-from lyrical figuration to constructivism.

Circles II  Watercolor  1939
9 3/4 x 13 1/2 inches (24.8 x 34.3cm)

Continuing examples of his strength are shown in works of the 1950s (Excavation and Maze) with skeins of threads weaving layers of colors in space and those of the 1960s (Verona and Sculpture Garden) that explore areas of closely-allied tones in brush stroked planes.

In 1970, the fledgling California Institute of the Arts opened. Jules Engel became CALARTS' founding director of the department in experimental abstract animation; thirty years later, he retains that position and has mentored outstanding artists in this field. (including John Lasseter, Henry Selick, Eric Darnell, Mark Kirkland) In parallel with his teaching and administrative activities, he has been independently creative in painting, sculpture and drawing, as well as in filmmaking (see sketches for PlayPen).

During this most recent year of 2000, Engel again dazzles us. Though he had explored lithography in the mid-1960s with the Tamarind Lithography Workshop and a young Gemini studio (New York Scene), many years passed before he again approached the stone. With master printer George Page at the Versailles Press, Jules presents a suite of fifteen color lithographs (including Garden of Contini, Route 101 and Wash Basin, each in an edition of only 20), that reconfirm his authority.

Garden of Contini  Color lithograph  2000
11 x 13 inches (27.9 x 34.9cm)

Advanced students from many parts of the world seek his classes at CalArts; film festivals pay homage to him regularly - most recently Brussels, Cincinnati, Toronto, New York. Whether in his classes, his studio or on the screen, Jules Engel has a presence that is highly respected.

Art is JULES ENGEL's singular focus. He explores and masters many aesthetic 'languages', constantly conquering new techniques and ways to speak visually Viewing his lithographs, his films, his paintings and his drawings clarifies this lifetime career focus.

Tobey Moss
Selected bibliography:
  • Isenberg, Barbara; State of the Arts
  • Furniss, Maureen Art in Motion
  • Return to top.


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