Handy Warhol and Handy Darling, 2019
Niki (Nikolai) and Simon Hass work together to bedazzle the gray zone between craft and design. Their functional objects defy simple use, their art objects dare you to sit on them. Their works question our static definition of beauty; instead, they prioritize the playfulness of childhood's imaginary worlds while acknowledging adult demands for regular bedtimes.
While the Haas Brothers are active in the high-end art and design worlds, their roots lay in the ore ancient tradition of artisans creating the artful objects that populate daily life. In the modern era, we can look at the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century Britain (which then spread across the globe), borne of a reaction to the impact of industrialization and hyper-segmentation of the labor force.* Artists and critics extolled the value of hand-made objects against the tide of mass production and advertising-driven design. The fluid relationship between art and design continued in the Bauhaus, an architecture and design program that promoted decorative arts as legitimate expressions of modern ideas.**
Simon Haas seeks out new ways to apply materials from the craft, art and industrial worlds to new uses. Niki Haas is the sculptor of the pair, creating anthropomorphic animals and things that are part portrait, part Dr. Seuss, part Maurice Sendak. Their shaggy monsters feel friendly, like Sesame Street characters, but they have the sharp horns of wild animals. The Brothers use humor as a way to connect to others, their objects functioning as a pun or joke that changes as we view their objects.
The Haas Brothers have experimented with hands in other parts of their oeuvre, from silverware that grabs you back, to seats that sport an unnatural number of fingers. Niki has mentioned the Italian-born, Mexico-based designer / artist Pedro Friedeberg as an influence in these works, but it is the unique combination of materials and imagery that has made the pair leaders in their field.
In Handy Warhol and Handy Darling, 2019, two vaguely creepy hands hold enoki mushroom-shaped solar-powered lights. The work suggests a napping monster will soon emerge from the flower bed, like a James Bond villain emerging from his underwater lair. The work integrates functional light on a fantastical creature, confounding what visitors will expect along Wisconsin Avenue.
Simon and Niki (Nikolai) Haas were born in Austin, Texas, in 1984, and currently live and work in Los Angeles. Their multi-faceted design and art practice, started in 2010, brings them in contact with a fluid creative community both in the US and abroad. Simon studied blacksmithing at the Rhode Island School of Design. Niki apprenticed with a master carver. Together, their masterful works are improbable and enticing in their luxurious materials and playful stance.
The designers are engaged in creating projects across the globemasks for Lady Gaga, resin shoes for Nicola Formichetti, gold-leafed furniture for Louis Vuitton stores, and an office re-design for Toby McGuire's Sony Pictures office.
Recent solo exhibitions have been held at: The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; Boesky West, Aspen, Colorado, Patricia Low Contemporary, Gstaad, Switzerland, Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin; U.T.A. Artist Space, Los Angeles; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Marianne Boesky Gallery and R& company, New York, and Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, Switzerland.Their work has been included in group exhibitions at: the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Marianne Boesky Gallery, R & Company and Kasher Potamkin, New York; the Mori Arts Center, Tokyo, and the ArtScience Museum, Singapore.