Originally from New Jersey, leading contemporary artist Peter Downsbrough (b. 1940) has lived and worked in Brussels since 1989.
A key figure in the New York art world in the1960s and 1970s, he associated with artists including Robert Barry, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Robert Smithson and Lawrence Weiner. From the early 1970s, Peter Downsbrough’s work was shown in the United States and in Europe. In Brussels, we remember his exhibition POSITION at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in 2003, the year during which his work AND /MAAR, OP - AND /POUR, ET was installed on Boulevard Emile Jacqmain, where it can still be seen today.
Working at the boundary between conceptual and concrete art, and since his beginnings in the 1960s, Downsbrough has developed a precise graphic vocabulary, pared down and without concessions, composed of simple geometric figures, lines and words.
If sculpture is at the origin of his investigation of space, the artist develops a system based on positioning and framing which he then applies to his many other practices: photographs, publications, films, installations in the urban space, wall pieces, room pieces, sound works, screen prints and even postcards.
His work draws on the architectural organisation of cities, captured by the artist in order to reveal their essential forms, contemporary witnesses of human action on the urban landscape. In his work, the relationship with the existing space, with place, is key. With Two Pipes and Two Poles, with his adhesive black lines, with scattered words from which he sometimes cuts letters to disrupt and open their meaning, his wall and room pieces, Downsbrough interjects and implants his work into the space in order to highlight it.
Through this reframing and shift in perspective, his works interrogate space and point of view. They force viewers to become aware of their position and movements, and of the importance of the positioning of the works. Consequently, language and the concept of time enter the equation, enriching a multiplicity of readings.
To mark his exhibition OVERLAP/S at the Botanique, Downsbrough will furnish the Museum with a selection of some more or less recent works and new creations that represent his diverse practices. A selection of black and white photographs from the DOORWAYS series taken between 1980 and 2016 will be also presented. The artist takes the same approach to photography as to sculpture: with gestures resembling those of the sculptor, he cuts, removes and trims the urban space through his lens in order to highlight the architectural and functional structures of the city. Downsbrough will also create two room pieces, one in the Gallery space and the other in the Botanique entrance foyer.
Finally, the Botanique has published a collection of six pamphlets in a limited edition of 300 copies, continuing from the first series of six launched and published by the Centre des livres d’artistes at Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche (France). A series of postcards created to mark the exhibition will also be available to the public.
Peter Downsbrough's Curriculum Vitae right here
Photo © Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon