Brad Downey is a popular urban artist, whose street interventions play around with everyday objects and their transformations.
His collection of street signs provide a combination of recognisable yet interestingly bold shapes, and its simple tweaks that are much more effective. Creating a story behind the people whom appear on these commonplace road signs, provoking people to view it in an entirely new way, each sign is a different person holding a different story.
The performance is the transformation of something instantly recognisable, into something that holds an entirely new story.
Simple things like a phone box full of balloons or a mass pile up of road signs can create effective ‘street interventions’ basically combining the real world with a gallery. Most of his work is praised, but one particular piece was extremely controversial, either for publicity reasons or just over presumptuous. Downey sprayed the KaDaWe shopping centre with green paint, provoking vandalism claims and highlighting the political issues with graffiti. Some deemed it to be an over zealous promotion by Lacoste, while Downey was just fulfilling a contract. I feel like people like Lacoste would take advantage of such quick advertising and it came back to bite Brad and showed him up in a negative light, there’s clearly a thin line between graffiti and art.
Historical, Economic, Political, Technological, Social? – Social and Political, in a world where blogs go crazy over simple yet striking installations, Downey provides light entertainment for these viewers.
Did the activities reflect the culture of the time? – Yes, in a world where everyone wants their view heard, or their work seen, Brad created designs and ‘performances’ which he knew would provoke opinions providing him with media attention.
Positive or Negative attention? – Positive, but could easily be seen as negative, provoking similar illegal graffiti.
Spectating vs. Participating? – Spectating, its all about the viewer, and the story they create with their mind looking at the pieces. the light up bollard is a perfect example, a small cityscape placed onto the bollard creates a fantasy world for the viewer to imagine.
Is performance there to keep people occupied or happy? – Its there to keep people happy, its a collection of simple urban design to make people smile.
How does it relate to my project work? – These simple sign alterations could be dotted around Preston, so people have to seek them. Modifying something people see everyday into something eyecatching, maybe brand it with the 2012 Guild.
‘In 2008, Downey sprayed green paint on the shopping windows of Berlins historical KaDeWe mall, which the owners reported to the police as an act of vandalism. However, Downey had been contracted by the Lacoste clothing brand (along with 11 other street artists) for an exhibition at KaDeWe celebrating the 75th anniversary of the brand, and he maintained that he was just fulfilling his contract. Die Tageszeitung speculated that the incident might have been a media stunt by Lacoste’
– Nguyen, P (2010) Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art. Gestalten.