Born 1970 | Lives and works in New York
There is a thin line — and sometimes numerous (white) lines — that marks the division between terror and glamour. A step too far in one direction and you’re down a rabbit hole of narcissistic hedonism; edge just beyond the brink in another and you’re in a world of autocratic atrocities. This paradox between surface and substance, polish and patina, capitalists and despots is what drives — and has always driven — the work of Nir Hod. A painter at his core, Hod has long been obsessed with honoring the technical mastery of his idols only to subvert them in polemical and political narratives that suggest a new world order that is just slightly askew: be it oil renderings of cocaine on obsidian mirrors referencing loss over lust; portraits of toddlers rendered with Old Master virtuosity disrupted by the addition of smoldering cigarettes in their hands; Dutch Golden Age style still-life paintings of tumescent orchids engulfed in Richteresque flames; or a haloed woman carrying a handbag — part Warhol ”Shadow Painting”; part luxury glamazon — isolated from the terrified ”Warsaw Ghetto Boy” in the iconic image of a Nazi roundup by SS photographer Franz Konrad.
For his recent series, The Life We Left Behind, Hod upends Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray by means of mirrored abstractions that begin with heavily labored gradient under paintings invoking the sublime sunsets of J.M.W. Turner which the artist cancels with a chroming technique first developed by the US Navy in 1939. He then degrades this finish fetish application via air pressure, water, ammonia and various acids to create a surface tension between newfangled industrial applications and age-old oil technique. It’s a series of vertical landscapes that map the rifts between vanity and venality as much as they mimic the patina of our decaying infrastructure (bridges, tunnels, waterways) that once supported life but now serve as ruins for modern-day ghost towns. Hod implicates the viewer as an agent in these lustrous action paintings, an abstract figure reflecting metaphors on their own conspicuous relationships with luxury and nature within the formal boundaries of their own distorted representation. In the age of Instagram, Hod’s chromed canvases shine a light on the true, unfiltered image of a generation who has staged so many self-portraits it can literally no longer recognize itself.
Meanwhile, Hod’s latest sculptural work, HOME, features a border wall constructed of dusty bricks on one side, punctured at critical points, to create a portal into a fantastical oil-painted horizon on the other. A meditation on the power of war to divide, the ability of art to liberate, and the connections that can be made through the seemingly destructive (though oftentimes illuminating) act of vandalism these painterly facades are the apotheosis of Hod’s oeuvre. Nostalgic, romantic, aspirational, Hod’s landscapes are composites of idyllic/horrific news images from lands foreign and domestic where refugees are deposited after fleeing wars. Depending on what side of the wall you land on you’re either in a dark nightmare of incarceration or a moon — or sun — lit paradise. It is through the artist’s deft merger of destruction and exaltation that we find the meaning and distortions of home: a physical and emotional retreat built on a solid foundation; a temple for wealth flattery; a Proustian psychological mindspace found only in the recesses of memory; a residence that teeters on that thin precipice between exterior glamour and interior terror. It’s that place, as the proverb suggests, where the heart is — and where it goes to break.