Robert Nava is an emerging talent whose myths and monsters bring painting back to its childish roots.
Nava’s practice creates its own mythology. His paintings fuse abstract mark-making with child-like figuration that depicts supernatural beings such as witches, ghouls, monsters, and dragons. The works combine the light and the dark, exploring themes of violence, nonsense, folklore, and fantasy. Both ancient and modern influences inform Nava’s work, from Sumerian carvings and cave paintings, to Abstract Expressionism, Bad Painting, and contemporary artists such as Huma Bhabha.
- Solo show, Mythologies, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2019
- Solo Show, VS. (Versus), Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 2019
- Robert Nava at Sorry We’re Closed Gallery, Brussels, Belgium, 2018
- NADA Fair, Canada Gallery, Miami, FL, 2017
- M.F.A. in Painting, Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT, 2011
As well as art history, Nava pulls inspiration from daily life, often illustrating bizzare anecdotes he has heard from friends and family. With a multitude of materials including spray paint, acrylic, graphite, and crayons, Nava works on large-scale canvases, pairing thick paint with scribbly line-work that looks like an enlarged sketch. Together, all of this makes up Nava’s absurdist storytelling: a parody of well-known mythic tropes which create their own childish nightmare.
Nava makes art from the mundane. In his ongoing series of truck paintings, he paints the back of trucks in bright, geometric forms. While their bold colour schemes and simple shapes turn the everyday subjects into abstraction, a personal narrative is attached to them as well. When making his way as a painter in New York City, Nava supported himself as a mover. He spent a lot of time driving a truck, and waiting behind other trucks. Sitting in the New York traffic, Nava observed the vast breath of the city; the criss-crossing lives of many different people and histories brought together on the streets. For Nava, this familiar view became a symbol of transience, a trace of the invisible labour in the city, and a recognition of overlooked beauty.
Nava rejects reason in his work. By painting the mythical and the supernatural—narratives used throughout history both to explain the world around us, and also to escape from it—Nava highlights humankind’s perpetual desire to give meaning to the unknown. Nava, however, is keen for his work to exist without justification, believing that whatever does not make sense now, will find different logic in time to come.
This is what Nava calls, “interesting nonsense.” A nonsense that has the uninhibited playfulness of a child, but is created through a cultivated form of intuition. Thus, Nava’s work comes full circle: from child to adult, fable to truth, logic to absurdity. Undoing the grand symbols that he portrays, Nava is an artist who, no doubt, will be marking the contemporary art world with his fun and fearless myth-making.
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