V1 Gallery presents

A solo exhibition by Robert Nava


A shark with its teeth exposed, blood dripping from the jaws and slightly melancholic eyes, or just eyes predetermined by the predator’s DNA. It can be hard to tell these days, Bubble Mouth, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 213cm x 183cm. A sword-wielding angel emerged in a waterfall, eyes focused for battle, with an adversary hidden just beyond or within the canvas. Painting is battle. Art is war. Waterfall Angel, 2019, acrylic and grease pencil on canvas, 186cm x 186cm. An aggressive luminous green, more electric than the green of Hulk, monster machine, body of a Transformer and the head of a minotaur, blasting bullets that can’t penetrate the edge of the canvas and ricochet towards the far edges. Ancient Greek myth fused with 21st century Hollywood lore. It is constant struggle to penetrate the canvas from the inside, even for a painting monster. Untitled, 2019, acrylic, grease pencil and crayon on canvas, 186cm x 172cm. Janus, the two faced Roman god of beginnings, transitions, duality, doorways and endings, looking equally angry and anxiously bewildered - he has two faces, painted into existence with swift, energetic, gestural brush work. You empathize with his anger and bewilderment, studying both the past and the future, how did we end here? Janus, 2019, acrylic and crayon on canvas, 186cm x 172cm.

The archetype of Janus is at the core of entering Robert Nava’s practice, looking both backwards into the history of painting and simultaneously gazing into its future. Adopting key philosophies from the CoBrA movement (1948-1951) – intuition, spontaneity and experimentation as freedom, embodied in the un-schooled drawings created by children. Drawing inspiration from primitive art forms, with an emphasis on primitive as something genuine and positive. A manifest of complete freedom of color and form. A fascination for the mythical and folkloric. The symbols of pre-Christian civilizations and religions. In an interplay between the conscious and unconscious, Nava channels an ancient pictorial language that flows through us from the first cave paintings and into the present.

In his work, Nava engages both past and present in his own distinct manner. He clashes Sumerian, Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, Japanese and Roman mythology and symbolism with the mythology of popular culture, such as Jaws, Transformers, the backside of New York trucks, flamethrowers, private jets and jet-fueled, fully armed flying tigers! In writing it sounds eclectic, but in hard-core visceral painting it intuitively works if you dare to lose yourself in the paintings. Nava paints with a rare energy and courage, not everybody will be pleased.

In Mythologies Nava connects ritual, rhythm and mayhem. The eternal symbiotic battle between man and monster on canvas reflects the ongoing struggle in the studio between artist and canvas. In this sense, the mythology and duality of Janus is present in every work in the exhibition, the paintings are passageways - transformative tableaus that depict and embody the beginning and end of conflict.

Robert Nava, born 1985, Chicago, USA, lives and works in Brooklyn, USA. Nava received his MFA from Yale (2011), New Haven, USA and his BA from Indiana University Northwest (2008), Gary, USA. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Vs, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, Robert Nava, Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels, Belgium, PUNCH, curated by Nina Chanel Abney, Jeffrey Deitch gallery, Los Angeles, USA, and Malmö Sessions, Karl Kostal, Malmö, Sweden. Nava has participated in several exhibitions with V1 Gallery, Mythologies is his first solo exhibition with the gallery.