Peter Downsbrough (b. 1940 in the United States, lives in Brussels) creates installations, sculptures, collages, books, and videos. His formal vocabulary—a feature of his work since the late 1960s—stands at the crossroads of experimental poetry and Minimal art. From post-Mallarméan poetry, he takes the use of the written word as a standalone signifier, employed in both a visual and semantic capacity. And from Minimal art, he adopts a narrow palette of colors, simple geometric forms, and a language often devoid of syntax. Downsbrough therefore has much in common with the Conceptual artists, despite being several years their junior. His work fits into these two traditions: the first is textual, and runs from Mallarmé to Concrete poetry, while the second is visual, and travels through formal and geometric abstraction from Constructivism to the present day.
Downsbrough’s black and white photos (Untitled, 1990–1995) depict fragments of urban landscapes—staircases, bridge piles, train stations, and industrial wastelands—in starkly contrasting abstraction. His architectural models, interventions on facades and home designs (Models, 1983–1998), meanwhile, are resolutely formal pieces characterized by simple, front-facing geometric shapes.
Curated by Sophie Costes with works from the museum’s collection