Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context
Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context explores the work of contemporary artists Simon and Nikolai Haas within the art historical tradition of the carnivalesque. The exhibition is the first to pair the Haas Brothers’ sculptures and drawings with historical, modern, and contemporary masterworks.
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. 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.
This spirit of the carnivalesque, which transcends cultures and time periods, animates the Haas Brothers’ innovative designs. Their bright, beaded beasts, which balance playfulness and gleeful carnality, are the modern-day ancestors of Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastical creatures and Mike Kelley’s scatological assemblages. 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.
The exhibition, which traces the history of the carnivalesque from the fifteenth century to the present, is loosely organized around two themes: The World Turned Upside Down and Celebrating the Profane. Each section will put historical and contemporary works in conversation with each other and with the Haas Brothers’ designs. Other artists represented in the exhibition include Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Kiki Smith..