Juan Downey, Artist in distribution, Chile, 1940
Juan Downey was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1940 and died in 1993. He obtained a BA in Architecture from the Catholic University of Chile and studied fine art at Atelier 17 in Paris and the Pratt Institute in New York City, where he later held a teaching position. Downey had a multimedia practice that involved the creation of videos, drawings, performances and installations that have been shown in solo exhibitions in various prestigious international venues, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Documenta 6 in Kassel, and the Venice Biennale. He received numerous grants and awards, including ones from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. Downey employs edited appropriated imagery and filmed acted scenes to create works which explore identity as it develops in a cross-cultural context. The videos are often somewhat non-linear, and range in style from magic realist to quasi-documentary ethnography. By exploring mythical stories and historical figures, Downey examines the contemporary use of signs in relation to their presumed origin, and how they are altered through use in communication technology.