The Artist's Eye: Juan Downey
June 7 - August 25, 2018
Opening Wednesday June 6, 6 - 8pm
Please join us for the preview on Wednesday June 6, 2018 from 6 - 8pm, to be opened by Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council and Dr Linda Doyle, Dean of Research, Trinity College Dublin.
The Douglas Hyde Gallery is pleased to present a series of invited solo exhibitions in Gallery 2, titled ‘The Artist’s Eye’. Acknowledging the crucial role artists play in influencing and shaping other artistic practices, this series asks those exhibiting in Gallery 1 to invite an artist of significant influence to present work in Gallery 2. In the third instalment in this series, Sven Anderson and Gerard Byrne have selected Moving (1974) by Juan Downey (1940 – 1993).
A ground-breaking figure in the burgeoning realm of video art during the 1960s, Downey, who had trained as an architect in his native Chile, also worked across drawing, painting, sculpture, performance and installation. Upon finishing university, and after spending some years in Paris, the artist moved to the US, eventually settling in New York. Across all media, his practice opened up for a future generation of artists the possibilities inherent in working with new technologies and methods of communication. His work in video blurred the lines between the subjective and objective, weaving a search for personal identity into the documentary narrative, while also looking at the link between organic and inorganic modes of existence.
Moving (1974) is an early tape made as part of a key work from Downey’s catalogue, Video Trans Américas. A series of tapes and installations, the project is the outcome of journeys made by the artist through North and South America in the 1970s. Starting in Cambridge, New York, he visited and made recordings with indigenous people in various locations including Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru, using a Sony Portapak, a battery powered recording system that made amateur video-making much more widely accessible in the mid 60s.
For Downey, video provided a means of contesting the unchallenged authority of mass culture and televised documentary, in particular the conventional observer-subject dynamic, thereby opening up the possibility of alternative modes of cultural communication and feedback. Within these new modes, visual information could be afforded a complexity of understanding he saw as more fitting to the politics of contemporary experience.
Juan Downey was born in Santiago de Chile in 1940. He studied Architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and began exhibiting his art. In 1961, after finishing his studies, he moved to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris where he studied print making at Atelier 17 with S.W. Hayter. During his stay in Paris he befriended Roberto Matta, poet Pablo Neruda, Julio Le Parc and Nicolás Guillén among others. In 1965 he moved to the United States to exhibit at the Organization of the American States in Washington D.C.. In 1969 he relocated permanently to New York where he produced the largest part of his oeuvre and was recognized as one of the leading artists of the period. He worked across several media and is currently recognized as one of the pioneers of video art. During his lifetime he had two solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He received several grants, including two Guggenheim Grants, a fellowship from the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, Cambridge, MA, two Rockefeller Grants and several National Endowments for the Arts. He taught at Hunter College and Pratt Institute. He travelled extensively across the Americas and lived among the Yanomami Indians in the Amazon Rain Forest for a year. In 1993 Downey passed away at the age of 53 in New York.
Image: Juan Downey, Moving, 1974, b&w, sound, 27 minutes. Courtesy of the Estate of Juan Downey.