Juan Downey: Radiant Nature

Juan Downey: Radiant Nature, is a two-part exhibition on the early works of Chilean-born artist Juan Downey as part of the Getty-led Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative exploring the vast subject of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.

From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, Juan Downey (b. Chile, 1940; d. New York, 1993) pioneered interactive, participatory artworks that helped shape his better-known multichannel video installations such as Video Trans Americas (1973–76) and The Thinking Eye (1974-1989). The works that make up Downey’s Electronic Sculptures (1967–71); Happenings and Performances (1968–75); and Life Cycle Installations (1970–73) take radically different forms, but they share similar strategies; conceived as vehicles for interactivity, they are intended to be played with or participated in rather than passively observed.

Downey was especially interested in the potential of technology to facilitate viewer participation, transform social relations, and forge new modes of communication between organic elements or environments and machines or machine systems. Borrowing ideas from second-order cybernetics, he conceived the organic and technological aspects of his work as relational, operating in tandem and alterable by feedback. Viewer-participants interfacing with the Electronic Sculptures, for example, may trigger an array of outcomes—sounds, colored lights, projections—depending on their actions. Similarly, Downey imagined participants in his Happenings and Performances as part of an unpredictable, amorphous system in which performers, video cameras, closed-circuit televisions, laser beams, and viewer-participants are working together. The Life Cycle Installations create an interdependence between mechanic and organic elements—plants, soil, and insects and electronic sensors, cameras, and television monitors—demonstrating Downey’s belief in the potential of cybernetics to solve large-scale environmental issues by rebalancing relationships between humans, technologies, and ecologies.

Ciara Ennis
Juan Downey
LACE/Pitzer College Art Galleries
September 10 — December 8, 2017
Juan Downey: Radiant Nature

Radiant Nature contributes substantial new scholarship on the early work of Chilean artist Juan Downey (1940–93) through the exploration of works made between 1967 and 1975: interactive sculptures (1967–71); happenings and performances (1968–75); and the Life Cycle Installations (1970–71).

Key themes addressed here include the interaction between technology, aesthetics and the body as a means to forge more horizontal forms of participation and more ethical ways to interact with the environment.

Ciara Ennis
Tanya Rubbak
LACE/Pitzer College Art Galleries