Live birds and an anaconda form part of the exhibition that is posthumously celebrating the Chilean artist Juan Downey in the Bronx Museum, in what the Gallerist NY is billing as “one of the most intriguing shows in town.”
“Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect,” which opened on February 9, is the first U.S. retrospective of the pioneering video and multimedia artist, bringing together more than 100 works from Downey’s expansive career.
And the variety of these works is staggering, ranging from documentaries and cartographies to robotics, each linked by Downey’s quirky and engaging character, and often delving into the downright bizarre.
“He made chairs that inflated and deflated, in sync with the breathing and heartbeat of whoever sat in them; he made machines that communicated with other machines via electronic music, humidity or radio waves,” writes Gallerist NY.
“His projects verge on the absurd, but they also speak to a certain strain of utopianism in American art and architecture—think Buckminster Fuller—and its legacy in the age of new media. Downey’s work is nerdy-Shamanistic, always looking to tap into and render visible the hidden relationships between the worlds of flesh and spirit.”
Born in Santiago in 1940, Downey was formally trained as an architect at Universidad Católica. After graduating, he moved to Paris where he studied printmaking at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 for four years.
In 1965 Downey moved to the United States, and settled permanently in New York City in 1969, where he lived until his death in 1993.
“Downey revolutionized the field of video art and pioneered an art form that has had continued relevance for contemporary artists working today,” said Bronx Museum of the Arts Director Holly Block. “As a Chilean, Downey maintained a connection with Latin American culture throughout the many decades he lived and worked in New York. These dual influences give his work a special resonance with the Bronx Museum and with our community. In addition, Downey has exhibited at the Bronx Museum before, making this exhibition a homecoming of sorts.”
The retrospective runs until June 10.