Genius is a word whose depth of meaning generally takes too long to talk about. It’s a heavy word, and the current exhibit of paintings and sculptures by Nir Hod at NYC’s Paul Kasmin Gallery, entitled Genius, is equally heavy. The Genius exhibit includes over 50 paintings and several sculptures created over a span of two years. It is the first solo exhibit at Kasmin for the Israeli-born artist, who now lives and works in New York.
The Genius portraits represent a cohesive collection of Nattily-dressed youths – aged from cherubic infants to precocious teenagers – classically posed and wearing mostly scornful expressions while also holding lit cigarettes. While the exhibit appears to be fairly straightforward, the meaning behind these paintings is far from obvious. I wondered, are these children merely playing a game of dress up taken to the extreme, or have they actually grown up too fast and become disenfranchised and jaded before completing puberty? Where did they come from, and what kind of lives do they lead? They are both delicately beautiful and profoundly sad, and that’s always an interesting combination.
According to the exhibit’s press release, these works “[continue] the artist’s longtime fascination with beauty and loneliness, glamour and death. Hod’s aristocratic young Geniuses inhabit a world of paradox, where their cherubic cheeks contrast with their scornful expressions and lit cigarettes. Like sculptures in a wax museum that aim to dramatically freeze time, these paintings explore art’s power to capture life while simultaneously elevating it to depict an unattainable ideal.” What I was reminded of most was a fusion of renaissance portraiture with the pop sensibilities of Ron English, who so often paints children in roles – such as that of a soldier or police officer – normally assumed by adults. I love art that makes me think.
Nir Hod’s artwork makes a further impact thanks to the manner in which it was hung in the gallery; staggered in clusters to fill the spaces as opposed to the more traditional single line of images across the wall (See photos from the exhibit that illustrate my point at According 2 G). This type of presentation gives the exhibit a more intimate, atmospheric vibe and helps to draw the viewer in to encourage a dialogue about what it means to be a Genius. You can read a fantastic article on Nir Hod regarding his inspiration and objectives behind this exhibit at Art In America Dot Com.
Nir Hod’s Genius is on exhibit through June 18, 2011 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, located at 293 10th Avenue, at the corner of 27th Street in Manhattan. Gallery Hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM.