The Haas Brothers Have a (Mathematical) Formula
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.