An Interview with the Haas Brothers on their First Solo Show at UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles

Interview by Gabriela Forgo

Gabriela Forgo – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a silver hex piece. 
Simon Haas – It’s funny, nobody is into the silver, but I think they’re gorgeous.
Nikolai Haas – If we did make more silver pieces I think it should go in a colorful environment because it takes on the colors, like a mirror, but because the form takes on what it reflects it kind of takes away the sculptural aspect of it. Have you ever watched that movie Abyss? It kind of reminds me of it, when the face floats up. Its ethereal.
Simon Haas – I love that movie.
Simon Haas – At the design fair we actually had to limit some of our works because it was deemed too sexual. There’s also no paintings allowed hence in this exhibition we can actually show it, which is nice.
Nikolai Haas – We’re trying to make more interactive pieces we’ve got the penis and the vagina on one end with a voyeuristic approach. You can touch it if you want, put your hands inside of it and play with it.
Gabriela Forgo – Which one, the balls or the vagina?
Nikolai Haas – Both.
Gabriela Forgo – I guess it’s kind of like those sex rooms, the ones with the holes, what’s it called? A glory hole?
Nikolai Haas – Yeah, exactly, were just trying to make more interactive pieces. In the piece to the left, we wanted to show more of the male figure, the soft and nude nature of a male is not often shown in pornography so we got this hockey player to pose nude for us and hold this brass piece to his cock. The giant brass dildo you see on the table is the same piece seen in the film. Ironically we were able to show these penis shapes at the design fair.
Gabriela Forgo – I suppose the art world is more open to sexual connotations while the design industry is more conservative in that regard. Your works tend to have personality and character to them, it doesn’t feel like an object when I’m looking at it.
Simon Haas – I just feel that if you can develop some form of empathy for an object then you can create a relationship with the objects you are living with. Essentially creating furniture that responds to humanity, divorcing humanity from objects that are designed for us to live with, it just seems kind of silly.
Nikolai Haas – A lot of our beasts and furniture are really personality studies, lots of these are portraits of friends and people we admire. We also like to include humor, because it’s a really great way to start a conversation in any realm, so in part it’s a way to get another person to emphasize with your views or to somewhat have a better understanding.
Simon Haas – And incorporating sex. Sex is just universally relatable.
Nikolai Haas – It’s really just part of the fun of it, and also creating a connection with our works.
Gabriela Forgo –  How much of your personal sex lives is involved in these pieces?
Nikolai Haas – Well I’ve had a girlfriend now wife for 13 years now I guess Simon you’re more experimental? I’m actually pretty Square to be honest, but definitely sexually satisfied with what I’ve got.
Simon Haas –  I’ve done everything, but I don’t think our sex lives are that involved in our work. I think were just trying to make playful vulnerable pieces. Because isn’t sex really complex playful and vulnerable at the same time? It’s more about vulnerability and sex without shame.
Gabriela Forgo –  I hear you’ve become allergic to one of your favorite mediums epoxy? Is that true?
Nikolai Haas –  Yeah, I’m allergic now, I have to wear a big rubber suit it sucks. That octopus on the wall was actually the last piece I sculpted with my bare hands, because after I finished that piece I basically felt like I had poison ivy for three months, my skin started to crack, rashes and blisters formed, it was not fun. I still use epoxy sometimes, but I can’t do details or make it smooth like I used to. That was also while Simon was in rehab, there was so much shit going on at the time it was crazy.
Gabriela Forgo – Have you found a substitute for it?
Nikolai Haas –  I’ve been using plasteline, 3-D scanners, and enlarging small sculptures, but its still not the same. I used that medium for so long it just sucks. I still occasionally use epoxy but I can’t sculpt larger pieces. Which is crazy because while working I used to be like ‘oh I don’t need to wear a mask’ I’ll be fine, and now I tell everyone, even if your not allergic to please wear gloves and a mask. I should have been wearing safety gear the whole time. A little dose of humility, I think I needed that in a lot of ways. We needed to take a little time for ourselves.
Gabriela Forgo – Are you planning on making any of these drawings into sculptures?
Nikolai Haas –  Yes! We actually have, we did this big cartoon figure called ape Suzette kind of based off of crepe Suzette, which we sold at AMFAR in Cannes at an auction which was great. We are also doing a big installation in Miami in November that’s permanent, its going to be 3 huge cartoon but bronze 8 to 14 feet sculptures, its been fun.
Gabriela Forgo –  How did the creation of ‘King Dong’ come about?
Nikolai Haas –  We actually started this piece about 2 years ago? We were kind of in this egotistical yet wavering state so this is kind of a manifestation of that period of time, we weren’t really getting a long. There was a lot of distance between us and we kind of hit a low. Simon was struggling with addiction and I had become allergic, there were a lot of changes happening in the studio. And while this was happening we were trying to maintain this ego.
Simon Haas – At one point I stopped trusting my own brother. The drugs I was taking caused me to become paranoid, I couldn’t decipher the difference between what was real and what was fake, it was terrifying.
 Gabriela Forgo – It’s kind of ironic because this is the biggest and darkest figure in your show, and you’ve placed it right in the center of the gallery surrounded by colorful pieces, do you think the placement of it, is a reflection of what came from that dark period of time?
Nikolai Haas –  King Dong is so groovy, he’s big, he’s got this big dick on him, I guess its just a reflection of us trying to maintain our egos during unstable times.
Simon Haas – Its kind of crazy, I used to come to this area for raves, and it was like a no mans land. I feel like I was probably drugged out in this building doing some form of crazy dance. It’s just ironic and surreal to think that now this area has become the new epicenter for galleries. I’m happy to be here instead of out there. But it still feels surreal, looking back.
Gabriela Forgo –  What’s in store for the future of the Haas brothers?
Nikolai Haas –  A lot of our work is getting more plant based, the drawings on the wall and the glittery car finish piece are actually based off these plants on the island of Socotra in Yemen, some of the trees there are over 10 million years old. Were planning on utilizing Simon’s brass hextile formula to make a large-scale forest installation similar to the Socotra landscape that we will be installing next year at the Bass Museum in Florida.
 
Haas Angeles is on view until October, 14th at UTA Artist Space, 670 S. Anderson St, CA 90023, Los Angeles.

A version of this article appears in Purple Diary with the headline: An Interview with the Haas Brothers on their First Solo Show at UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles.