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Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future

October 6, 2014 | by

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Nir Hod, Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future, 2013, plexiglass, stainless steel, twenty-four-karat gold flakes, mineral oil, 78 1/2" x 42" x 42". Photo by Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Down the block from the Review is Paul Kasmin Gallery, where through October 25 you can see Nir Hod’s Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future, which has the distinct honor of the most captivating snow globe I can recall having seen. (An honor formerly held by a particularly endearing Epcot souvenir from 1997—sorry, little guy.)

The globe is large—more than seventy-eight inches; the photo above doesn’t do justice to its scale—and it’s filled not with “snow” nor even “sno,” but with flakes of twenty-four-karat gold. Its vivid, lustrous amber color comes from mineral oil, and at its center is an ominous, gently swaying pumpjack. As the gallery notes, Hod’s work contains a “dark glamour that is both alluring and menacing”—this piece in particular brought to mind the iconic poster for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

As Hod, who was born in Tel Aviv and lives in New York, told the Creators Project last month, “A generation ago, there seemed to be more collective romanticism, and I’m nostalgic for that.” That romanticism isn’t immediately in evidence here, but if you peer into the amber for long enough, you start to get a sense of it: the pumpjack, which begins as an emblem of rapacity, takes on a sentimental sheen without your even noticing.

“I’ve been told a number of times that people innately feel bad for the pumpjack because of the feeling of loneliness and despair imbued in it,” Hod said. I came away feeling faintly starry-eyed: how could such a beautiful machine do such violence to the landscape, et cetera, et cetera, the beauty of polluted sunsets, et cetera, are we all doomed, and so on. Then I stepped onto Twenty-seventh Street and was nearly hit by a cab, and the spell was broken.

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