PETER DOWNSBROUGH

Peter Downsbrough’s work – which encompasses sculpture, graphics, photography, video, film, and books – presents complex associtations between architecture, text and typography. Only the bare essentials remain: form is often reduced to lines, colours are mostly barred. His videos explore movement and language in relation to time and space, representing as well as deconstructing urban and industrial space. By inserting word blocks into the landscape he has filmed, Downsbrough creates a linguistic twist, shifting the perception of the videos in relation to a ‘phrase’, which then functions as a ‘place’ in which the viewer can engage.

º 1940, born in New Brunswick, New Jersey (USA), lives and works in Brussels (Belgium).

The work of visual artist, photographer and film artist Peter Downsbrough maintains a close relationship with architecture and typography. Downsbrough’s images reflect upon the past, present and possibly the future within a multitude of consequent manners of seeing. In the early sixties Peter Downsbrough interrupted his studies in architecture at the universities of Cincinnati and New York in order to work as a sculptor. After a first exhibition (New York, 1962) the artist gains international recognition a decade later. He has been exhibiting regularly in the United States and Europe since 1972. The varied work of the artist - ranging from sculpture to ’graphic design’ and photography to video and film work - articulates a complex relationship with architecture and typography. Additionally it draws on the achievements of the early avant-garde (Bauhaus, De Stijl) as well as those of Minimal Art. In terms of form, Downsbrough’s work consciously uses only the strictly necessary: for him line, plane, negative space (cutting away) and delimitation are essential elements for arriving at his imagery. In order to additionally emphasize the relationship of his work to the space, Downsbrough eliminates the use of colour. Content-wise, he separates himself from his influences, often joining together and erasing of various disciplines. His well-known sculptures consisting of parallel lines form a void in the landscape, bringing about a new proposition for the reading of the surroundings. Because Downsbrough uses jumbled words deliberately - in fact a successful balance between design, painting and drawing - the word in that work almost becomes an architectural expression.

The artist’s film and video work also concentrates on the space. In the moving image, movement obviously takes a leading role and Downsbrough explores this in relation to time. The artist also reserves a prominent place in his film and video work for urban reality, in particular the modernist grid and architecture. Without the use of staged situations he transforms everyday surroundings into an architectonic space where order and disorder are shown in the first place in an observational manner, and/or are dissected. A minimum of camera movement contributes to that reductive tactic: in black & white images the artist usually wields a fixed long shot standpoint that he occasionally intercepts with travelling or medium shots. In the second instance the artist (re)organises the space with his discrete interventions and precious camera-use: the apparent disorder gains a new layer. Moreover his videos and films compel the viewer to involvement: the rhythm enforces a subjective analysis, prompting reflection on that which is shown. In an active reading an essential and enriching dialogue between space and the objects in it is found hidden beneath the sleek layer of Downsbrough’s use of form. The artist alternately touches upon a historical, critical or social discourse. At the same time Downsbrough’s videos lend themselves for a second reading: in their gentle tempo and - sometimes imposing - modesty his works equally prompt contemplation.

argos editions published POSITION, the first monograph on the work of Peter Downsbrough, bringing together texts by Christian Besson, Marie-Thérèse Champesme, Russell Ferguson and Marjorie Welish, as well as the dvd Thru (2003).

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