BEING A HAAS
Enter the psychedelic, art-fueled, and charmed world of The Haas Brothers as they take over The Joule
Since founding their Los Angeles design studio in 2010, fraternal twins Nikolai and Simon Haas have built up a rolodex of celebrity clientele and garnered an impressive stack of press clippings—New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, W Magazine, Architectural Digest—while trying on labels like “enfants terribles” and “art darlings” for size.
Last year was a banner one for the brothers. There was “Haas Angeles” at L.A.’s UTA Artist Space—the duo’s largest exhibition to date and the first-ever survey of their work. There was “Animalia,” their first exhibition at Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin, the city where they grew up. And then came Barneys New York. “Haas for the Holidays” was the mantra of the season as the windows, merchandise, and branding was Haasified with colorful characters and surrealist scenes.
Now they’re onto bigger things—literally. In conjunction with their first showing at Dallas Art Fair with Lora Reynolds Gallery, their 9-foot-tall “mega beast” King Dong has made its way to The Joule lobby. Nikolai, younger by 9 minutes, chatted with 1530 Main about the imposing figure and the symbolism behind it.
You and your brother have imagined a whole world of characters: mini beasts, mega beasts, accretions… were you particularly into cartoons growing up?
Simon and I loved cartoons when we were young. I still do, and you can see that influence directly in our work. I think you can communicate certain human ideas and emotions through characters in a way that’s not too on the nose. Our sculptures are really portraits of family and friends done in a caricatured way. You can show aspects of someone’s personality through gestures and expressions, like a silly tongue, but in a way that’s still anonymous.
So who is King Dong then?
In a way, it’s a self-portrait of my brother and me. Two years ago, we had been experiencing all this tremendous success and developing huge egos—believing in our own hype. But we had a falling out with each other and got knocked on our asses. King Dong is a representation of that bravado and charisma, but also a guardian for us in a time when we were most vulnerable.
He’ll be at The Joule with a more G-rated look than at his debut. As the name implies, he was created with um, well…
A big gold penis—a power symbol that’s ultimately such bullshit. This is actually serendipitous timing to show it without it. Simon went to rehab and that path really humbled us, taking us down a few pegs. It also showed us what matters. Simon is clean and sober now, and we have an amazing relationship. And I’m a father now, too.
Has fatherhood shifted your perspective?
It shifts everything. For me, having a newborn son has shown me what’s most important in my life. It’s the coolest thing. I love my wife; my son, Fox; my brother; my family—the rest of the shit doesn’t feel as important.
Where does your work fit into that?
I care deeply about my art, but it’s a close second to the human interactions that give it meaning. The sketching, the sculpting, the creating… that’s really about giving something emotional value. And I don’t lose sight of the fact that my brother and I are super lucky to do it all together.
The Details: Admire King Dong in all its beastly glory at The Joule, 1530 Main Street.