Jill Downen: COUNTERPARTS, the third installment of the NEW FRONTIERS: Series for Contemporary Art, exhibited approximately ten architectural sculptures combining human anatomy with the constructed environment. Through her work, Downen invites viewers to reevaluate architectural space in relation to their body and encourages them to achieve a greater awareness of self in that space.
Over the last twenty years, Jill Downen’s studio practice has evolved into a focused investigation of the interdependent relationship between the human body and architecture. Her installations, drawings, and models express this symbiotic relationship, where the forces and tensions of construction, deterioration, and restoration emerge as themes. Her art explores architectural space as an active dimension that develops and deteriorates much like the human body.
Downen’s installations temporarily transform empty walls and floors and immerse viewers in a sculptural redesign of a building’s space that literally melds the human form and architecture. Her site-responsive installations evoke architecture with a human sense of being, while maintaining the structural integrity of the built environment. Sculptural forms meticulously shaped from building materials, such as white plaster and polystyrene, embody sensual contours and sagging flesh that intertwine with walls, floors, and ceilings. Predominantly hand carved with traditional techniques, Downen’s installations also take on the physicality of human labor and touch.
Downen is a 2010 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Significant residencies include the MacDowell Colony as a National Endowment for the Arts fellow and the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. In 2003, she received a Great Rivers Biennial Grant, sponsored by Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Gateway Foundation, and in 2004, she exhibited The Posture of Place, as part of the first Great Rivers Biennial. Her art has been reviewed in numerous publications, including Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, Art Papers, The New York Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Downen has extensively presented about her work, in particular at the Luce Irigaray Circle Conference on philosophy (New York, 2007). In addition, she has participated in symposiums on modern and contemporary art at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.
Born in 1967 in Belleville, IL, Downen maintains her practice in St. Louis. Her art is represented by the Bruno David Gallery. She holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA as a Danforth Scholar from Washington University in St. Louis. Since the completion of an appointment at Washington University as the Wallace Herndon-Smith Distinguished Visiting Assistant Professor in 2008, Downen has pursued art practice full-time.