Peter Downsbrough

Artist (1940)

Since the late 1960s, Peter Downsbrough has been involved in research into the signs for a way of understanding space, on different scales, from the book to the city. His work, which is closely connected with architecture, applies areas as varied as typography, photography and installation. The spare means which hallmark his productions associate him with Minimal Art and Conceptual Art. In all his urban works, and those exhibited in galleries, Downsbrough raises the issue of the reading of space, its organization, its rhythm and its structure. He uses words (adverb, conjunction and short words) to “draw” with the help of rods which do not touch the ground, vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, lines signifying so many frames, limits and possible displacements. It is not a matter, here, of positioning a regulatory layout but of arranging the clues of a particular structuring of space. In his early works produced at the beginning of the 1970s, Downbrough created spaces with just two parallel lines, metal or wooden rods. He would subsequently produce many versions of Two Pipes, where the two pipes are situated in an interior or exterior environment, and systematically photographed. Working with maquettes is also an inherent part of the artist’s praxis. His training as an architect has an effect on the diversity of the uses that he can make of models. He uses the maquette as a preparatory stage, an intermediate phase for the preparation of an in situ work. But the maquette object can also assume the status of a work when he finalizes the project. If Downsbrough’s maquettes have a specific meaning, the spaces which they describe make us desire the image of a large-scale, “permanent” work. This is what Peter Downsbrough has embarked upon since 1993, by extending his field of investigation to architecture, with projects for houses, as well as to the urban space.

Peter Downsbrough, who was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is an architect by training. He lives and works in Brussels. Since his early days in 1969, there have been many exhibitions of his work in Europe and in the United States. The first retrospective of his oeuvre in France was held at the Espace de l’Art Concret at Mouans-Sartoux in 2003. He has published several artist’s books, including Two Pipes, Fourteen Locations (1974), In Front (1975), A Place (1977), and And That (2009).

Nadine Labedade

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