William Downs: Sometimes it hurts

William Downs, Just too tired to cry
William Downs, Just too tired to cry, 2018. Ink wash and spray paint on paper, 40 x 52 inches. Courtesy the artist.

St. Louis—The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis presents William Downs’s Sometimes it hurts, a large-scale ink-wash drawing by the artist on the 60 foot-long Project Wall, on view September 7 through December 30, 2018. Downs’ drawings are often described as surreal or hallucinatory, evoking fluidity of form and ambiguity of content, or as one critic observes, “the transmission of mind to paper.” Stories, dreams, memories, and personal experiences enter into his compositions, or what the artist calls  “a never-ending maze of random elements.” The Atlanta-based artist often speaks of his practice in relationship to music-works have varying “tempos,” and his drawings are “songs that evoke or respond to feeling.”

Although his early work exhibited an expressionistic style and intense coloration, he has since pared down to black charcoal, watercolor, pencil, and Japanese ink.

Whatever his medium or subject matter, Downs is concerned with basic elements of composition, line, and surface. “My drawings are all about composition,” he has said.

“Surface holds every line that I layer.” For Sometimes it hurts, the artist addresses the anthropological relationship of the body to its environment, dramatically manipulating those surroundings to conform or clash with the figure within the space, which includes mental and emotional space. Sometimes it hurts is made to awaken human feelings as they are embodied and literally drawn into two-dimensional form.

Downs will be working on his installation with students from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at the Washington University in St. Louis.

William Downs(b. 1974, Greenville, South Carolina, lives and works in Atlanta) works in a range of mediums, but focuses primarily on drawing. His work was part of the exhibitions On Paper at Field Work Gallery in Pittsburgh (2013), and Art AIDS America at the Zuckerman Museum of Art in Kennesaw, Georgia (2016). Recent solo exhibitions include “aimless revery”. Fuel and Lumber Company, Birmingham, Alabama, and Slag Gallery, New York; atease, Parker Jones Gallery, Los Angeles; a world never made, Slag Gallery; and fly away fly away, Artspace, New Haven, Connecticut. His exhibition with the artist Brooke Pickett, Crossing Lines, has been shown at {Poem 88} in Atlanta and The Front in New Orleans. Downs received a multidisciplinary MFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, and a BFA in painting and printmaking from the Atlanta College of Art and Design. Downs is currently a Drawing and Painting Lecturer at Georgia State University. William Downs: Sometimes it hurts is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator.


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