You may think you haven’t heard of Katsu but you definitely have. He’s the artist who used a drone to paint over Kendall Jenner’s face. That happening isn’t a one-off techno stunt but a statement of the artist’s future making: his work is obsessed with technology and he frequently uses spray painting drones to create. He’s pioneered this craft.
These works range from splotchy landscapes to crooked happy faces that seem like a mistake, dribbled graffiti created by a child unable to hold a can of paint. They inspire an “I could do that!” dadittude from a viewer when you very clearly cannot: a robot made it. Do you have a robot? Are you as talented with a robot as you are with a paintbrush? Probably not. So, no, you can’t make these paintings that pretend to be human but very clearly aren’t.
These paintings are funny and positive but are underlined by the destruction of personhood through technology. Katsu makes these works by remote control and, eventually, they will probably be made by an algorithm. It’s already happening! Katsu’s work is at a tense point, where the give and take of the human and robotic are meeting in the middle. Will they always be in the middle? Will the artworks always be so funny or will they shift to angry, sad frowns once we have been surpassed by machine? Yes, this is hyperbolic and silly and Katsu’s way of managing these thoughts is ridiculous—but it is important. He is doing something noteworthy and, yes, I do find them cute. I want a drone smiley painting to smile at me as technology becomes a problem. (At least it will in the mind of Elon Musk.)
I found these through The Hole’s mama Kathy Grayson, who represents Katsu and is generally an all around rad person. (Her Instagram is great, too. She has a cool dog, a hot boyfriend, and knows good, contemporary art. I would love to hang with her.) She hosted a show of Katsu’s future digesting work at the beginning of the year and is showing his work around the world, at various fairs. If you want to learn more about the artist’s process and see more of his work, you should read his interview with Vice.