Robert Nava

Tornado Rose

Sep 5 – Oct 21, 2023
Exhibition Details:

Robert Nava
Tornado Rose
Sep 5 – Oct 21, 2023


267 Itaewon-ro


Press Release


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Above: Robert Nava, Mountain Fight, 2023 © Robert Nava

Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Robert Nava at its arts complex in Seoul.

On view from September 5 to October 21, the presentation, titled Tornado Rose and coinciding with Frieze Seoul, marks the artist’s first solo show in Asia. It will spotlight six new paintings, varying in scale, created by the artist this year.

Known for his lively depictions of fantastical creatures, objects, and landscapes, Nava imbues his work across painting and drawing with philosophical and psychological import, often tapping into a dark, contemplative, and existential space. In the suite of new paintings that he will show at Pace in Seoul, Nava navigates the fault-lines between beauty and chaos. The protagonists of his latest works are suspended perpetually between creation and destruction, and a sense of the elemental pervades these new canvases—a storm of marks sweeps across the picture planes, reshaping everything it touches. For Nava, this whirlwind of form becomes a metonym for the act of painting itself. Abstraction takes shape while tempests of marks and explosions of color unfold in reverse, like a field of dispersed particles coalescing back into a tangle of expressive forms.

In his new works, Nava returns to some of the most recognizable motifs in his visual lexicon—the shark, the ghost, and the bunny rabbit—while intensifying the density of his painted surfaces and developing further the narrative quality of the paintings. In Storm Fire Body Bunny (2023), a violent maelstrom of brushstrokes takes the shape of a bunny, whose roiling interior contrasts starkly with the placid expression on its face. “It has no worries in its heart,” Nava explains, even as the creature witnesses what the artist describes as “dawn over an apocalypse.”

In Burial Shark (2023) and Violet Shark Ghost (2023), Nava returns to what is perhaps his most iconic creature: the shark. Represented alternately in these works as a figure of death and a figure of vitality, the shark becomes an avatar for the psyche—a predator stalking the underwater world of the subconscious, provoking terror through invisibility more than appearance. In Burial Shark, the predator is caught in the act of breaking through the surface of a maritime nightscape riven by thunder and lightning, its mouth agape and its body transformed into a graveyard of ghosts. In Violet Shark Ghost, images of the shark and the specter suddenly merge, suggesting that the act of painting is a kind of haunting, with form lurking beneath the surface, emerging as abstraction.

Nava pushes this theme of ghostliness further to explore the uncanniness of the double with Mirror Universe Doppleganger (2023). In a horror show of mirrors, two fanged creatures—which might be dragons or hellhounds—seem to share a shield-like body, the contours of their individual forms merging and disintegrating at once. Meanwhile, Nava’s painterly imagination is on full view in Mountain Fight(2023), in which an epic battle unfolds between one of the artist’s signature angels and a phalanx of dog-like creatures. Their face off rends the pictorial surface asunder, revealing the substrate of abstraction that makes figuration possible. Nava’s new paintings can be understood as odes to enactments of disintegration, disaggregation, and breakdown—forces of destruction that are, nevertheless, integral to the act of creation.

Concurrent with his show in Seoul, Nava is presenting a solo exhibition at the Hall Art Foundation’s Kunstmuseum Schloss Derneburg in Germany through November 12. He recently concluded the inaugural residency and exhibition at Fondazione Iris, Cy Twombly's old studio and palazzo in Bassano in Teverina, Italy. The exhibition featured a new body of work that the artist realized during his stay at Iris.


Explore Robert Nava's "Tornado Rose" in Seoul

On view at our Seoul gallery, Tornado Rose spotlights six new paintings, varying in scale, created by Robert Nava this year. In his new works, Nava returns to some of the most recognizable motifs in his visual lexicon while intensifying the density of his painted surfaces and developing further the narrative quality of the paintings.


Installation Views

Robert-Nava-Matteo Mobilio-Pace Gallery.jpg

About the Artist

Robert Nava's practice centers on large-scale paintings and works on paper that portray whimsical creatures, rendered through gestural markings. Finding inspiration in the art of the distant past, from Medieval Christian imagery to Mayan and Sumerian art, as well as popular contemporary sources such as animation, Nava creates compositions that are carefully considered yet marked by a sense of naivete and spontaneity.

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