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March 17 - April 28, 2001 at Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood

by Marge Bulmer

Directions III",
collage/colored pencil/ink, 21 x 27", 1960.

Verona (Old Town No. 2)",
gouache/paper, 22 1/8 x 19", 1963.

Gardenscape I",
colored pencils, 11 x 8 1/2", 2001.

"Punch and Judy", color lithograph,
edition 20, 9 1/8 x 8 1/4", 2000.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Jules Engel has been an influential artist in Los Angeles since 1937. He is additionally the founder and Director of Experimental Animation at Cal Arts. This exhibition includes a recent suite of lithographs together with a survey of his sculpture, paintings, drawings, as well as many of his experimental films. Although well known as the creator of the storyboards for the Russian and Chinese dance scenes in Disney’s Fantasia, the basis for his art does not stem from movie film. Recalls the artist, “It was from watching the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. . .that I discovered the artistry of movement. Through the choreography of George Balanchine, and great dancers like Tamara Toumanova, Danilova, Baronova, David Lichine, and Leonide Massine my own vision began to emerge. Another avenue opened with the modern dance of Martha Graham.” He felt that contemporary art could have an emotional flow without explanation.

Engel developed a personal and dynamic visual, graphic language independent of literary or theatrical traditions, a language that is not a narrative, but rather conveys ideas and feelings through movement and color. His vocabulary consists of lines, circles, squares, triangles and other geometric elements that are enhanced by color. Witty imagination combines with rigorous structure to shape abstract forms that fairly dance across the surface with fluidity and grace. A variety of emotional states ranging from joyous abandon to solemn contemplation are conveyed.

Like cells combining and separating, shapes seem to develop into some strange organic creature that moves to its own rhythm. Then again, a line or square may remain passive or static, appearing to be waiting for a cue to take off. Viewing this work, one can easily understand why musicians, composers and conductors have described his compositions as musical. But Engel does not rely on music for a starting point. Music is only added at the completion of the visual component of his films. Unlike Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren, who are motivated by music and refer to their films as “visual music,” Engel refers to his films as “Art in Motion,” and calls the background a “sound score.” This is because he is aware of the slightest sound, a footstep, a cough, a whisper, that may influence a viewing experience. Engel aserts that these elements constitute “a conversation where the most minute detail can express an abundance of ideas and feelings.”.

Engel is also careful in his consideration of color, selecting it to infuse a composition with a particular energy or grace. He states that the use of color could be “close or distant, and by its use, lines could be in an active or passive state. Color can create space, it can project the coming scene or situation, it can be dramatic or expressive for any form or implication.”.
In this exhibition, confident vitality, lyrical and fluid line will engage you emotionally and intellectually. Engel’s art calls to mind the words of Polish poet Czeslow Milosz: “The world is so organized that it is endlessly interesting: there is no limit to the discovery of ever newer layers of strata. It is like a journey through a maze which is pulsating, changing, growing as one moves through it.”.