In this interview, artist Nir Hod discusses his latest sculptures, developed for his first solo show on the West Coast at Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles, and about adjustments to his studio practice while quarantining and social distancing. Nir, whose art practice explores notions of beauty, decay, narcissism, and darkness, referencing the history of painting and our current social media culture, is based in New York full time, but writes to us from Connecticut, where he is temporarily living and working during the pandemic.
This interview was conducted in July 2020 as part of Artis’ series, From the Desk of…. In this series, we check in with artists, curators, and collectors about their recent projects, reflections on social distancing and quarantine, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how they are practicing, experiencing, and engaging with art.
Tell us about a project you’re working on now.
At the moment, I’m working on a few projects. I’m completing two sculptures that were supposed to be presented in my solo show, The Life We Left Behind, at Kohn Galleryin Los Angeles, CA. The show was scheduled to open on March 20th, but was postponed right before the opening date, because the coronavirus situation became so extreme. The show was just recently rescheduled to open on July 14th, and I am working with the gallery on programming (virtual) around the show. Three months ago, I left my home in New York to relocate to Connecticut, and have been working from here, via Facetime, with a company that is fabricating these new works. I travel to New Jersey twice a month to see the development of the sculptures in person. It’s a very interesting way to work. I’m also working on a new body of charcoal pieces. For many years now, I have wanted to explore ideas using charcoal. Charcoal has spiritual, fragile properties. It is almost dust-like, and is very different from painting. Working with charcoal is a slow process, and that is why I chose to use it in my practice right now. This is a good moment to concentrate on developing work over a longer period of time. Working in a small studio that I built in the forest, I find myself working for hours at a time, creating these charcoal works.
Finally, I started working on a large commission for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, MA, which will be installed on the main wall of a new building on campus. I’ve been working on this project for two months, and plan to finish it by the end of August.
Has your practice shifted in response to social distancing and quarantine regulations?
Social distancing and quarantine regulations have changed everything. I can’t really produce the chrome paintingsthat I’ve been making for the last few years. Each chrome painting requires 4 people to take part in the production process. Now, since we can’t work together in the studio, I’m doing more writing and sketches for new works. Being away from my studio for so long has made me think about new ways of creating. It has been challenging and interesting, but now, after some time, I can see the benefit and the inspiration I get from being away from my studio, my home in New York, my zone, and my routine. These changes are powerful.
Is there anything, in particular, that you miss from life before social distancing?
The works that I developed over the last 3 years are called, The Life We Left Behind. This title has become so poetic and spiritual right now. I miss life, in general, from big things life has to offer, to the small and fragile moments; from complicated to the simple; I miss the freedom and strong energy of normal life. I miss hugging and traveling. I miss life in general.
How are you staying connected to friends, family, and colleagues? What does community and solidarity mean to you nowadays?
We live in a great time when it is very easy to stay connected with everyone. We have our whole life in our hands now, with the smartphone. Every day, I speak with friends, family, and other artists and people I love. We share moments, fears, dreams, and tons of images and ideas. I see the value of community and solidarity especially at this moment, but also, as an artist and a person, I always feel isolated from the world when I’m in my studio—and I prefer to live in my imagination. Time spent by oneself is always inspiring.