With the element of surprise firmly on his side, the American artist Brad Downey creates powerful interventions that visually disrupt the routine of our urban perceptions. Downey’s art discourages quick glances and celebrates the double take. Using elements from film, sculpture, painting and drawing, he creates remarkable work ranging from the spectacular and headline-making to the small, delicate and almost hidden. This book is the most comprehensive collection of what Brad Downey calls his ‘spontaneous sculptures’. It brings together attractive, provocative and clever urban interventions.
If Downey is looking for the barrier between vandalism and art we should give him the credits that he his balancing on this line very carefully. Some of his works, such as the amazing and already famous phone booth full of balloons, are great. It looks good, it is spontaneous, and people love to see it. Also other projects like Tarp Cut, a heart cut out from scaffold, and the rebooted graffiti by pealing tiles are great and belong to the better projects in the book.
On the other hand, many projects unfolded in the book are pretty close to regular vandalism and carry neither a form of style, beauty and esthetics, nor conceptual thinking. At least on first sight they don’t. These projects are detrimental to the Downey’s portfolio and also to the book. Examples here are an overturned planter in Denmark. Why? Or big pieces of heavy concrete placed on the roof of a car. These are the less funny ones. Mainly because similar projects are done each Saturday night everywhere in the world by people that understand the next morning that their drunken behavior was not that artistic.
Most of the projects covered in the book though are simple and funny on second sight. Like a statue blowing chewing gum bubbles or having a spoon on its nose. Downey’s work is most recognizable by the daily urban objects put on top of each other. Sometimes he makes a point or changes the urban context. Sometimes, however, there seems to be no clue whatsoever apart from the fact that stuff has been dragged around. But no matter where you are in the world, as soon as you see broken urban furniture, strange places building materials or moved benches, you will unconsciously think of Downey’s work for a moment.