This series spotlights the film work of Peter Downsbrough (New Brunswick, 1940), an artist better known for his pieces made with black tape and letters, the map pieces, his books and scale models. However, his audiovisual work was prolific between 1976 and 2006, during which time he produced 21 films and videos.
Downsbrough began working in the 1970s, following in the footsteps of conceptual and minimalist artists with pieces like Two Pipes (outside), Two Dowels (inside) and Two Lines (on paper), taking photographs to document these works and capture the ‘cuts’ or negative spaces in the urban landscape. His particularly productive period between 2003 and 2007 (14 films) followed a pause of 19 years between Untitled (1981) and 2000, when he began working with film again, and, indeed, his best-known pieces are his most recent ones in black and white. These works take the viewer from one city to another and from one architecture to another, often exploring spaces through slow travelling shots punctuated by freeze frames that are both abrupt and precise. Words intermittently appear in these places - some clearly enunciated while others are inserted into the image. The sites are usually accompanied by a ‘deaf’ background sound.
7 come 11, Downsbrough’s fourth film made in 1980-1981 and projected on the bright Spectacolor Board in New York City’s Times Square, shows a game of dice. Two dice - some real with engraved faces and others parallelepipeds with blank faces - roll from left to right across the screen over a mat of red, green and yellow light bulbs that form the backdrop for a playful, dramatic announcement contained in a friendly, eternal phrase: “The dice are not loaded. Yes, they are.” 7 come 11 is particularly notable for containing the first appearance of dice - the emblematic subject, object and figure of Downsbrough’s art process, which focuses on the structuring of space and, more precisely, on questions of position and displacement in a specific space. With Downsbrough, dice are also writing surfaces on which all types of adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions crop up as if to suggest a writing of the place or an open reading of the space where the viewers find and know how to situate themselves.