Nir Hod

I Want Always to Be Remembered in Your Heart, 2013. Courtesy of artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.

After working for 15 years out of his Meatpacking District studio, Israeli-born artist Nir Hod is as much a New Yorker as he is a transplant—and his new exhibition “Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future” at Paul Kasmin Gallery is a collision of the paradoxical influences that have shaped his city experience. A converging swell of nightclub narcissism, dark history, salacious violence, and materialistic glamour, the work explores the perverse beauty in our ugliest desires. With not a portrait in sight, the show is a first for Hod, who is best known for his sickly humorous Genius series, which features Van-Dyke-inspired paintings of insidious toddlers.

One of the show’s most compelling elements is a triptych of flaming orchids entitled I Want Always to be Remembered in Your Heart. “I became obsessed with the challenge of painting realistic flames after looking at the surreal realism of Gerhard Richter’s work,” says Hod. “I wanted the flames to look almost like a ghost encompassing the flower.” Another notable piece is his pumpjack snowglobe, a larger-than-life sculpture in the form of the iconic souvenir, which is filled with crude oil rather than white flakes in water. “When you take it out of the context of East and West, money, and politics, there is something sexual about an oil drill existing the middle of the sand,” says Hod. “Yet in reality, its beauty is also completely dissolved in this world of violence.”

Hod’s The Back Room series, meanwhile, showcases his new coating process, which transforms matte canvases into reflective surfaces. His inspiration: the aesthetic similarities between CBGB bathroom stalls and Nazi gas chambers. “I like to bring my materials from the places that other people don’t like to look, because I find so much beauty in them,” he says. “These painting are not about the clubs or the Holocaust, they are about the universal nature of loneliness.”

Nir Hod’s Once Everything Was Much Better Even The Future opens September 11th at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 516 West 27th Street, New York.