When Nir Hod says genius, he means many things at once. Sometimes “genius” just means a portrait with messy hair and a bitter, aloof frown. At other times, he calls a spectacularly bad painting or bizarre hair cut “genius.” And then genius also evokes isolation – nasty, narcissistic personalities.
Hod’s influences include Velázquez, El Greco, and subsequent appropriations of old master style: kitschy prints hanging in frame shops and smoky-looking photography studio backdrops. Presenting children as adults is another idea from old photography studios, which Hod takes to a fantastical extreme with the addition of cigarettes.
He painted his first Genius as part of an installation recreating the offices of Israeli grey-market money changers, where the decorations are “not soft porn but soft painting.” Over the past three years the Genius series has gradually become his primary focus, culminating in Hod’s current show at Paul Kasmin. Gallery director Hayden Dunbar discovered the artist last summer and was immediately taken with Hod’s “eccentric figuration, his hand and technique.” He remembers, “You turned the corner and saw another dozen paintings! I wanted to do a show right away.” Hod’s paintings are unlike anything else at the gallery, which brought Iván Navarro’s neon picket fence to this year’s Armory Show.
In the video, Hod talks about geniuses, Yves Saint Laurent, Dorian Gray, and why, ultimately, there is nothing to say about art.