Fans of Denver painter Jonathan Saiz’s work won’t be surprised to see that his latest installation comprises multiple intricate works. This is, after all, the artist behind “Marie,” a giant assemblage of more than 1,100 miniature oil portraits of Marie Antoinette, which hangs behind the reception desk at the Le Méridien Denver Downtown hotel. Even Colorado Coastal, Saiz’s recent solo exhibition at Denver gallery K Contemporary, displayed hundreds of large- and small-scale oil paintings with a singular theme: post-climate-change Colorado.
But with “#WhatisUtopia,” the centerpiece of a two-part installation Saiz created for the Denver Art Museum’s Eyes On: Jonathan Saiz show (on view in the Logan Gallery through November 17), the ambitious artist surprised everyone by creating 10,000 tiny paintings, drawings, and relief sculptures that explore ideas of a perfect world. (An additional five framed artworks comprise the second part of the installation.)
The miniature artworks—each no larger than two square inches and showcasing a single color in the visible light spectrum—completely cover the shaft of a column at the center of the gallery. Their thoughtful arrangement replicates what happens when a beam of light passes through a prism and emerges as a rainbow (another symbol of paradise).
The finished product (and, more specifically, what will happen to it after November 17) explores yet another vision of utopia: “What is possible if we stop striving for self-preservation at all costs, and give all we have to make this world a more generous and beautiful place,” says Saiz, who plans to give away all 10,000 “#WhatisUtopia” artworks—which, combined, took him 150 days to create—at the close of the exhibition.
The artist’s Instagram followers will understand the magnitude of the gesture, as Saiz shares openly about his own financial struggles and insecurities on his feed @utopia_is_free. But for him, “giving away these 10,000 artworks is just the beginning of a much bigger Utopian dream, where art and culture flow freely, and where every one of us feels loved and seen,” Saiz says. “I don’t know if free art can create a better world, but I’m inspired to try…one tiny painting at a time.”
Saiz has promised to share details about the giveaway in September; for now, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll be notified when more information is available. While you wait, you can follow the project at @utopia_is_free, and share your own photos of the installation—and thoughts on utopia—using the hashtag #whatisutopia.
If you go: Eyes on: Jonathan Saiz is open at the Denver Art Museum’s Logan Gallery through November 17.