Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context at the Katonah Museum of Art

haas brother jungle fool photo by gail worley
Jungle Fool Sculpture (All Photos By Gail Unless Otherwise Noted)

Do you love living in NYC, but occasionally like to take a Day Trip so you can get a new cultural perspective, or just go out in nature and explore? I love doing that, but sadly there must generally be an impetus that motivates me to make a plan. Planning (ugh!) is not my favorite thing, but it is sometimes necessary to achieve the goal of having a crazy fun new adventure. Recently, I took day trip with my art-loving pal Teddy outside the City via Metro-North.  The impetus: The Haas Brothers have an exhibit at the Katonah Museum of Art!

katonah museum of art exterior photo by gail worley

katonah museum outdoor space photo by gail worley

For perspective, the Katonah Museum of Art is roughly the size of one of the larger galleries in Chelsea, such as Gagosian  or David Zwirner.  They also have a lovely outdoor space that, we were told,  has hammocks that you can lounge in during the summer — which we were sad to miss! The town has a great diner where you can grab lunch, and there are lots of little shops and galleries not far from the train, so you could totally make day of it after spending a leisurely amount of time at the museum.

haas brothers purple and blue tree photo by gail worley

Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context  explores the work of contemporary artists — and twin brothers — Simon and Nikolai Haas (b. 1984) within the art historical tradition of the carnival-esque. The exhibition is the first to pair the Haas Brothers’ sculptures and drawings with historical, modern, and contemporary masterworks.

haas brother gallery view photo by gail worley

The exhibition, which traces the history of the carnivalesque from the fifteenth century to the present, is split into two large galleries and loosely organized around two themes. The first gallery explores the theme of Bodies and Boundaries, and features the brothers’ whimsical furniture and small clay sculptures (seen against the wall in the background of the above photo) on display. Works by the Haas Brothers in this gallery are juxtaposed with those of artists such as Mike Kelley and Niki de Saint Phalle.

unicorn by niki de saint phalle photo by gail worley
Unicorn (1994) by Niki de Saint Phalle

In medieval Europe, the festival of Carnival — like modern-day Mardi Gras — was a time of liberation and inversion. Carnival leveled social hierarchies, encouraged free expression, and celebrated behaviors that were usually prohibited.

red bench creature sculpture photo by gail worley

Although the Carnival tradition eventually went into decline, its transgressive spirit survives in artworks that use humor or grotesquery to challenge social norms and destabilize power structures.

haas brothers furniture sculptures photo by gail worley

This collection of sculptural furniture is created through a process of using what the brothers refer to as ‘hex tiles.’ To create their hex works, they cut tiles from a solid, hexagonal brass bar. They then piece these tiles together over a sculptural form. It is impossible, however, to fit the hex grid over the organic, undulating shape below without changing the size and shape of the metal pieces. Look closely and you’ll see that what initially looks like a regular grid, is actually a puzzle that the artists have carefully assembled from individually hand-shaped tiles.  Through this process the Hass Brothers create a remarkably flexible skin to cover a wide range of animated forms, from tables masquerading as wide-eyed knock kneed creatures to a bench that throws its hind legs (and bulbs buttocks) high in the air.

haas brother lighted sculpture photo by gail worley

For Large Socatra (above) the artists repeat this process with aluminum tiles, creating a massive, shimmering silver form that is simultaneously vegetal and phallic.

world turned upside down gallery photo by gail worley

For the second gallery’s theme, The World Turned Upside Down, the spirit of the carnivalesque — which transcends cultures and time periods — animates the Haas Brothers’ innovative artworks, known as the Beasts collection.

gallery view photo by gail worley
two beaded creatures photo by gail worley

These bright, beaded beasts (seen previously here), which balance playfulness and gleeful carnality, are the modern-day ancestors of Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastical creatures. By merging the realms of craft, design, and contemporary art, the Haas Brothers also demonstrate just how arbitrary the boundaries and hierarchies of the art world truly are.

beadwork detail photo by teddy k
Beadwork Detail (Photo By Teddy K).

gallery view with mushroom photo by gail worley
mushroom photo by teddy k
Photo By Teddy K.

The mushroom is one of my favorite pieces in the show. Check out the beadwork!

mushroom beadwork detail photo by gail worey

All beadwork is done by the expert craftswomen at Monkeybiz of South Africa (who are also known as the Haas Sisters).

fantastical beings by leonora carrington photo by gail worley
Fantastical Beings by Leonora Carrington

This second gallery collection also puts historical and contemporary works in conversation with each other and with the Haas Brothers’ design, including works by Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dalí, and others.

haas brothers plant photo by gail worley

I love how these beaded plants are shown alongside several botanical prints embellished with surreal touches by Salvador Dali.

embellished botanical print by salvador dali photo by gail worley
embellished botanical print by salvador dali photo by gail worley
plant detail photo by gail worley

Constant Carnival also marks the debut of Jungle Fool, a new, large-scale work by the Haas Brothers. Perched on the grounds outside the KMA, the sculpture’s glowing eyes will guide visitors up the Museum’s drive. This is a family-friendly exhibit where the only ‘adult’ artwork is in a separate alcove with a huge disclaimer on the adjacent wall, so you can steer smaller kids past it if necessary. I’d also like to mention that Saturday,  May 14th is Family Day at the museum, so it would be an ideal time to visit with small children, although the Haas Brothers will appeal to Kids of All Ages!

gallery view photo by gail worley

Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context is on view through June 26th at the Katonah Museum of Art, located at 134 Jay Street (Route 22), Katonah, NY 10536. Take This Train Line from Grand Central Station for a smooth and scenic 70 minute ride. The Museum is a safe and quick 20-minute walk from the train station so you don’t have to stress-out about needing to call an Uber or finding public transportation. You will enjoy the walk! Visit to book tickets, or phone 914-232-9555 for more information.

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