The artist known only as ‘KATSU’ (most of his activities are illegal) used pre-programed drones to paint all 4 walls of The Hole gallery in New York. Before the robots took flight, the artist hung seven large white canvases in specific locations to create colorful abstract paintings that will live beyond the exhibition. On view through August 23rd, “Dot” challenges the idea of an “artist” and blurs the line between “studio” and “gallery”. It also proves a solid understanding (and lineage) of art history.
This is KATSU’s third solo show at The Hole. The first, covered by Design Milk in 2015, included paintings created by drones that the artist flew himself. The second exhibition in 2017 introduced autonomous pre-programed drones – developed in collaboration with Tsuru Robotics in Moscow – to fly in an identical pattern (a flower) in front of dozens of canvases to produce endless copies in a variety of color combinations. This new exhibition is the first to invite the drones to “work” in the gallery itself, transforming the room into the energy of an artist studio visit.
Each of the seven “paintings” measures 5×7 feet with compositions that were also pre-planned, based on both the specific placement of canvases and known flight pattern. I’m sure that “errors” in flight control, paint application, and splatter none-the-less provided a level of unpredictability, not unlike Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. But unlike Pollock, these drones can “drip paint” while the canvases are still on the wall (Pollock was forced to use the floor). There may also be a reference to Damien Hirst’s “Spot” paintings – not just sharing a visual similarity, but ALSO in using the alternate word “dot” as the show’s title (“Spot” would have been too obvious).
The strongest art historical link is one the press release mentions: Andy Warhol. It’s a smart comparison. Warhol’s repetitive and “mechanical” silkscreens allowed for a factory-like repetition… and a little controversy. In fact, if Warhol were alive now, he would probably be flying drones – or more likely, he would be kicking himself that KATSU did it first.
KATSU is well worth following on Instagram, where you can see video of the drones, his more illegal activities, and THE BEST promotional video for an exhibition that I’ve ever seen, featuring the world’s favorite “gallery dog” Bertie (who calls this gallery home, and has his own Instagram) wielding a can of spray paint.