The Haas Brothers invite you into their fantastical 'Cool World' at R & Company, New York

Installation view of the Haas Brothers' 'Cool World'
Installation view of the Haas Brothers' 'Cool World', currently on show at R & Company in New York.
(Image credit: Photography: Joe Kramm. Courtesy of R & Company)

Simon and Nikolai Haas have an infectious energy. At just 30, the Los Angeles-based twins, known as the Haas brothers (opens in new tab), have mesmerised the design and art worlds with their surreal aesthetic; one that knows few bounds. Their first solo exhibition in the US, 'Cool World' (named after the suggestive, live action/cartoon film directed by Ralph Bakshi (opens in new tab)), opens at R & Company in New York today and presents the culmination of two years work, including never-before-seen pieces.

Reimagining the gallery's slick Tribeca space especially for this show, the brothers have created an immersive dwelling for their fantastical creations. The walls of the gallery have been lined with pastel coloured ceramic vessels from the duo's 'Accretion' series, which are made using a glazing technique inspired by watching the build up of paint in a spray booth. Resembling hybrids of sea urchins, tree funghi and sexual organs, the delicate works are filled with latent energy, each extrusion as taut as hairs standing on end.

These set the scene for the twins' menagerie of anthropomorphic beasts, which go by names like 'Hairy J Blige' and 'Edward Fur-Long', and similarly blur the lines between sculpture and functional object. Presented in a dinner party setting, the creatures bypass their purpose as footstool, club chair and chaise longue, and evoke a naïve emotional response instead.

Returning to this unaltered, instinctual psyche is a crucial aspect of the brothers' work. Simon explains, 'We came out of the Internet and grew up watching cartoons. Anything that a kid watches has a huge influence on them and we don't want to take ourselves so seriously that we can't bring these childhood things into the fore. For us, that's what keeps us inspired.'

Apart from the surreal objects, the Haas Brothers have created paintings, drawings and prints that make use of cartoon imagery and expression to present their wondrous worldview. A series of these showcase comic critters enjoying hallucinogens while floating into space are presented in sculpted frames, like portals into an alternate universe.

'What our world represents is that everything should be a thought. It shouldn't be a learned behaviour,' says Nikolai. 'It's so easy to polarise things if you speak politically, like why should someone be able to tell someone else who they can have sex with, for instance. Or why California has no art class in public school and weed is illegal. It's a ridiculous idea and the morals come from a place that's a hundred years old, not nearly as evolved and smart-thinking [as we are today.]'

The concept of freedom is evident in the twins' 'Advocates for the Sexual Outsider' installation that they revealed during this year's Design Miami/ Basel. Designed to be entered alone, the private chamber is filled with sex toys, gender-neutral drawings of sexual acts and interactive sculptures that react to being cupped or fingered.

Simon says, 'We wanted to present sex in a non-threatening, non-pornographic way. Nothing is truly explicit. It's meant to be anti-shame. I come at things from a gay viewpoint and Niki comes from a straight viewpoint, and we tried to reconcile the two. Sex is there for everybody to experience and it's not something to be judgmental about.'

The show finishes off with a blackout room in the gallery's lower level where the glow-in-the-dark 'Animal Party' wallpaper produced with Flavor Paper for the latest edition of Wallpaper* Handmade, stands in all its glory. Humorous, disarming, sophisticatedly made and subversive, the Haas Brothers' universe is one intoxicating trip. 

The Tribeca gallery has been transformed into a surreal menagerie for the brothers' fantastical creations

The sleek Tribeca gallery has been transformed into a surreal menagerie for the brothers' fantastical creations, including never-before-seen pieces from their 'Beast' series presented in a dinner party setting

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

'Unique Sloughy Mini Beast' in chocolate goat fur with 'Chester Cheetah' feet in bronze

'Unique Sloughy Mini Beast' in chocolate goat fur with 'Chester Cheetah' feet in bronze, 2014. Abstract in form yet exuding the character of a child's stuffed toy, the creatures evoke a naïve emotional response

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

The anthropomorphic beasts, with names like 'Hairy J Blige' and 'Edward Fur-Long', blur the lines between sculpture and functional object

The anthropomorphic beasts, with names like 'Hairy J Blige' and 'Edward Fur-Long', blur the lines between sculpture and functional object

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

The walls of the gallery have been lined with new pieces from the duo's ceramic 'Accretion' series

The walls of the gallery have been lined with new pieces from the duo's ceramic 'Accretion' series, which are made using a glazing technique inspired by the build up of paint in a spray booth

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

Resembling hybrids of sea urchins, tree funghi and sexual organs

Resembling hybrids of sea urchins, tree funghi and sexual organs, the delicate works are filled with latent energy, each extrusion as taut as hairs standing on end

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

'Red Father Accretion' vase and 'Large Marge Dong On Stomach Accretion' vase

Left: 'Red Father Accretion' vase, 2014. Right: 'Large Marge Dong On Stomach Accretion' vase, 2014

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

'Unique Meryl Sheep Beast' settee

On show for the first time is the 'Unique Meryl Sheep Beast' settee, 2014, in white Icelandic sheepskin with bronze camel toe feet

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

'Advocates for the Sexual Outsider' installation is designed to be entered and explored alone

The brothers' provocative 'Advocates for the Sexual Outsider' installation is designed to be entered and explored alone

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

The private room at R & Company, New York

The private room is filled with sex toys, gender-neutral drawings of sexual acts and interactive sculptures that react to being cupped or fingered

(Image credit: R & Company, Haas Brothers)

A blackout room in the gallery's lower level

A blackout room in the gallery's lower level features the glow-in-the-dark 'Animal Party' wallpaper produced in collaboration with Flavor Paper for this year's Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

The showcase expresses the Haas Brothers' wondrous worldview

The showcase expresses the Haas Brothers' wondrous worldview, with comic critters, surreal beings and fantastical forms that lead visitors into an alternate universe

(Image credit: Courtesy of R & Company,Haas Brothers )

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Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.