The Haas Brothers Have a (Math­e­mat­i­cal) For­mula

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Twins Niko­lai and Si­mon Haas dis­cuss their first solo mu­seum show and YoungArts award in Mi­ami Beach. BY KRIS­TEN TAUER PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY AN­DREW MORALES

While the art com­mu­nity in Mi­ami has swelled this week thanks to Art Basel Mi­ami Beach and De­sign Mi­ami/, the Haas Brothers have been in town for a few weeks. The Los An­ge­les­based artists — twins Niko­lai and Si­mon Haas — have been busy in­stalling their first solo mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion, which opened at the Bass Mu­seum this week. The show, "Fern­gully," serves as a sur­vey of their work cre­ated over the past 10 years.

The de­sign­ers work at the in­ter­sec­tion of de­sign and art. Their new­est pieces are plant life ren­dered us­ing a bead­ing op­er­at­ing sys­tem that Si­mon has been de­vel­op­ing over the past few years. The ex­plo­ration is rooted in cel­lu­lar au­tom­ata, a sub­set of frac­tal math­e­mat­ics. "Beads are units, so it's pos­si­ble to pro­gram them. So th­ese are all pro­grammed shapes. The per­son mak­ing them acts like hard­ware," Si­mon ex­plained of the process, which has so far been used to cre­ate three beaded tree sculp­tures and a patch of color­ful vel­veteen cacti. The re­sult­ing ob­jects look re­al­is­tic de­spite their whim­si­cal col­ors and ma­te­ri­als.

"My idea is that this is an ana­log to how na­ture builds it­self. I wrote my own ver­sion of it. Re­ally like how cells are on the most mi­cro level in the body all op­er­at­ing on pro­grams also," he says. "It's an it­er­a­tive process, some­thing hap­pens over and over."

All of their work is sim­i­larly play­ful and whim­si­cal — fur­ni­ture is given per­son­al­i­ties and fea­tures that ges­ture to­ward hu­man qual­i­ties — while be­ing rooted in the con­cep­tual. A col­lec­tion of their furry crea­tures, ear­lier work, greets visi­tors into the ex­hi­bi­tion and serves as a study into hu­man em­pa­thy.

"Si­mon brings awe. The thing abut na­ture that you don't un­der­stand, he sort of an­a­lyzes that," says Niko­lai. "My job is more [about bring­ing] hu­mor and emo­tion to the work."

The ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tle is re­flec­tive of the emo­tional as­pect of the work. "We loved the movie ['Fern­gully'] when we were kids, so it was kind of like a nos­tal­gia and it's about a per­sonal jour­ney," says Niko­lai. "It's more about the feel­ing the movie gave us as chil­dren."

"And there's a fairy in that movie who makes plants grow, and that makes some sense here," Si­mon adds.

There's also sig­nif­i­cance to hav­ing their first solo mu­seum show de­but in Mi­ami Beach.

"We grew up as artists in Mi­ami, our mar­ket has been re­ally big here, and we get sup­port from De­sign Mi­ami/ and Art Basel and this mu­seum, and a lot of our col­lec­tors are here, so it's been an in­cu­ba­tor for us as artists," says Si­mon. "It's also a big deal for us to have it pub­licly view­able, be­cause our work is maybe in­ac­ces­si­ble; it's ex­pen­sive. And this is some­thing that thou­sands of peo­ple get to see and that's awe­some to us."

The brothers have also segued their ris­ing pro­file for good, em­ploy­ing bead ar­ti­sans in South Africa and Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia to help them cre­ate their elab­o­rately beaded cre­ations.

"I think we had a mo­ment in our ca­reers where we de­cided our plat­forms should be uti­lized to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties and sup­port mi­cro economies, and then also cre­ate com­men­tary that's about pos­i­tiv­ity and try to cre­ate things that change the world for the bet­ter," says Niko­lai, point­ing also to their in­volve­ment with YoungArts. The artists were re­cently awarded the or­ga­ni­za­tion's Ari­son Award.

"In­ter­ac­tion with kids from YoungArts is the thing that cre­ates the ethos of our stu­dio, that I think makes our work art­work rather than just ob­ject be­cause it's about the fu­ture," Niko­lai says. "Do­ing things like that, and do­ing things like cre­at­ing mi­cro economies, is the front-run­ner of the fo­cus of our stu­dio, 100 per­cent."

Niko­lai and Si­mon Haas

The Haas brothers ex­hi­bi­tion.

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