United States of America
Together Apart: #Frontier
Jill Downen is an American artist based in Kansas City.
Her art practice investigates the symbiotic relationship between sculpture, the human body and architecture where the exchanging forces and tensions of construction, deterioration, and restoration emerge as thematic possibilities. Downen believes that the body is the primary vehicle for understanding the world. Her immersive sculptural environments engage the senses and ways of knowing that are often private and experiential.
Jill Downen’s work is framed by conceptual inquiry, research, material processes, a visual-spatial language developed over 20 years and her gender non-conformity. She activates space with a sculptural approach using concrete, plaster, lumber, metal, gold leaf and lapis lazuli stone. She generates work in a non-linear method, moving fluidly between drawing, sculpting, and model-making (both digital and physical) which culminate in site responsive installations.
Downen’s deep understanding of phenomenology, space, light and materiality informs the way that she sculpts the entire volume of a given space. A thematic metaphor in her work is the blue plumb line, a tool comprised of a weight on a string used by builders to erect walls in true vertical relation to a horizontal plane. The plumb line functions as a contemplative metaphor for truth, activating ways we perceive and understand objective facts and subjective truths.
The frontier, for me, is a middle-ground place to exist as a non-binary thinker in a world full of polarities. I began the residency with a desire to seek out the dynamic energies that activate the frontier as a conceptual space where everything is in motion. I explored the idea of binary-pull, a linear tension between two boundaries, which is released to reveal unexpected forces, rendering them visible.
Writing, reading, drawing and research informed by conversations within the cohort led my intuitive work. I focused on the use of a chalk plumb lines to make several videos. My work blended with the explorations of collaborators Trisha Gupta and Nora Jacobs. Together, we explored ideas of circular motion to escape boundaries, neuro-diversity represented through brain imagery, and connectivity by combining still and moving imagery. Our creative process was documented with text and image in a pdf format. The residency encounters enriched my research through collaboration, resources and dialogue.
1967 Belleville, IL, USA
Lives and works in Kansas City
2001 | MFA Washington University in St.Louis
1989 | BFA Kansas City Art Institute
2020 | State of the Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, USA
2018 | Arte Laguna Prize International Exhibition, painting, Arsenal of Venice, Italy
2011 | Jill Downen: Counterparts, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, USA
2007 | Corps et Bâtiment á Paris, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France
2004 | Posture of Place, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, USA
2019 | MASS MoCA, Assets for Artists, North Adams, Massachusetts, USA
2017 | Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, USA
2009 | MacDowell Colony, National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA
2007 | Cité Internationale des Arts, residency, Paris, France
2018 | Stone and DeGuire Contemporary Art Award
2016 | SANTO Foundation grant
2015 | Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Fellowship
2010 | John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
Represented by Bruno David Gallery St. Louis, USA
Exhibitions, Together Apart
#3 | FRONTIER: results
Artists in dialogue
Frontiers as geopolitical frontiers, as cultural, biopolitical; frontiers as limits and as separations within the artistic disciplines, frontiers as hegemonic considerations of our bodies and identities…were some of the approaches on FRONTIER general theme in the Together Apart Program #3 session.
Through 4 encounters we collectively and individually created ideas and artworks which explored a non-binary approach of the topic. The participant artists also had the possibility to dialogue with Kristina Borg and Liz Ingram & Bernd Hildebrant, international artists and former ´ace artists-in-residence, invited to present their contributions and explorations in relation to the topic. For this session we also gave priority to moments of peer review or collective feedback and to open discussions which drifted through issues of art and therapy, art and research, participatory art, the complexity of artistic collaboration and how collective practice appears to be a right to claim even more in moments of isolation.
Through different theoretical readings and artistic references, and through the proposals of each of the participant artists, we identified the importance of liminal states, the non-binary, we assumed the difficulty of inhabiting the in-between but also recognized that art practice is what allows us to live in ambiguous states and to constantly raise questions. We also explored other practices as breathing techniques, meditation and knowledge and skills sharing as methods to break through discriminative or isolating frontiers.
Using poetry, film, online performances, video art and the creation of a network for artists through the method of “participatory asset mapping”, the artists from this cohort created in search of commonalities in their migrant’s everyday experiences, resonances among the natural conditions of the places they live in, the links among their identities and psychological researches and in search of practical collaborations to continue working in the future.
DANIELA RUIZ MORENO | curator-in-residence