The Haas Brothers: Haas Angeles
UTA Artist Space
By Lorraine Heitzman
Through October 14th
Haas Angeles, at the UTA Artist Space in Boyle Heights has all the makings of a blockbuster; it is exciting, naughty, fantastical, and well crafted. The gallery is owned by the United Talent Agency and this show, despite its unlikely location, is a perfectly realized extension of the renowned entertainment company. Gauging by the buzz and size of the crowd on opening night, it is already successful in accordance to some preordained trajectory that has seen the brother’s fame skyrocket over the past seven years. In the gallery, the requisite bombast in the form of an enormous woolly creature with golden genitalia isn’t surprising; that is to be expected from the Haas Brothers. What is surprising is how good it is.
Fraternal twins Nikolai and Simon Haas grew up in Austin, Texas into an artistic family. Their father is a sculptor, their mother a singer/screenwriter, and their brother Lukas, an actor. Living in Los Angeles for more than a decade now, the Haas brothers have the support, not only from UTA, but also from a large group of creatives, from artisans to technicians. With their army of co-conspirators, they are putting their pop aesthetic stamp on the art scene.
By all accounts their art education began at home, but their first opportunities came from their Hollywood connections. With their technical skills, art backgrounds, talent, and connections, they garnered commissions from actors, architects and performers. It was in 2013, though, when Donatello Versace first commissioned the brothers to design a line of furniture and accessories for Versace Home that the world took notice.
In 2014 the Haas Brothers participated in Art Basel through their affiliation with R & Company, a New York design firm that sells their lighting, ceramics, beaded objects, seating, tables and rugs. The exhibit was memorable for its outrageousness: there were shaggy settees with bronze, beastly feet and carved, wooden benches, suggestive of animals and of course, their notorious sex room, Advocates for the Sexual Outsider. Later that year they brought this show to Design Miami and in 2015, they participated again with work from their Afreaks series that features fanciful, beaded furniture and objects made in conjunction with the Haas Sisters, a woman’s collective of bead workers from South Africa. All of which is to say that in addition to being imaginative and nimble in the breadth of their work, they are suited to both excess and hard work, a good formula for any entrepreneur.
Like their previous collections, what impresses most in Haas Angeles is the range of exploration across genres and materials, and their signature lighthearted attitude that pervades everything. Some work is quiet, some is over the top, but everything is infused with a sense of humor, often reflected in the titles, such as Erection Results, Armold Schwarzenegger and Barrier Queef.
At the quiet end of the spectrum is a series of porcelain objects on shelves, glazed in warm hues. Looking mostly like vases and sea urchins, they are organic and whimsical. Although the accretion method used to make the hand-thrown porcelain pieces is laborious, the work looks fresh. They are not nearly as precious as one would assume, considering the delicate process and their essential impractical nature. And while the process and labor is apparent, those factors are secondary to the experience. These objects hold our attention mainly for their considerable lyrical beauty.
In the other, louder, category of work there are the imaginative creatures, the phallic sculptures and light fixtures, paintings made with metallic automotive paints and the sex toys in the Advocates for the Sexual Outsider that one enters by passing through a giant vagina. The brothers delight in our delight. Their enthusiasm is apparent in everything they tackle and maybe their success is just because we appreciate their apparent joy in what they do. But taken as a whole, there is so much creativity on display that is confidant and has a singular point of view, that like most popular tourist destinations, Haas Angeles is a place worth visiting because the hype isn’t manufactured, it is real.
Haas Angeles is on view through October 14, 2017.
Nikolai and Simon Haas