For Gavin Brown Enterprise’s contribution to this year’s Frieze New York, Jonathan Horowitz will present “700 Dots,” a piece that will recruit a total of 700 fairgoers to attempt to paint a “perfect” solid black dot, each participant receiving a handmade $20 check from the artist as payment.
“I’m interested in a kind of mark-making where the hand of the painter is amplified,” Horowitz explained over email. “A perfectly painted dot would render the hand invisible. And there’s a further amplification of the hand through the multiplicity of hands involved. Every dot is different.”
Horowitz has been working on the black dot project for the past two years. One hallmark of the piece is the absence of drawing aids like rulers and compass; participants are forced to create the dot with nothing but paint and a brush.
“It’s slow and meditative and takes concentration and precision,” dealer Gavin Brown said, speaking to me from Venice. (Brown himself had a go at painting one of these dots. He remarked that his turned out “pretty good,” before adding “I can draw a circle pretty well.”)
The dots came out of a project of Horowitz’s based on Lichtenstein’s mirror paintings. “In comic books, the dot is like the atomic unit of the printed image, and here, I wanted the work to be as reductive as possible,” Horowitz said.
Brown will have space set aside for the works to be made until all 700 dots are completed. Everyone from visitors to gallerists are encouraged to paint, and eventually the works will be sold–for presumably more than $20.
“Obviously it will be in line with other works we sell Jonathan’s for,” Brown said. “Participation of other people doesn’t necessarily bring that price up or down.”
Whether inadvertently or not, the piece calls to attention the often problematic issue of labor within the art industry. There is a transparency to the whole project that Brown referred to as “contradictory,” at different points using the descriptors “very romantic” and “cold-eyed” when talking about the work.
Regarding the $20 payment, the artist stated, “It’s a token gesture and not really central to the work, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to work for free,” noting that the custom-designed check can function as an artwork in itself.
“Participants can choose not to cash it if it’s worth more than 20 bucks to them,” he added.