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Palm Beach

Robert Nava

Past
Jan 6–Jan 17, 2021

In this new series of paintings, Robert Nava hones the iconography of sharks to explore the dualities of good and evil present in the subject matter—a theme that runs throughout his oeuvre.

Exhibition Details

Robert Nava
Jan 6 – 17, 2021

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Gallery

340 Royal Poinciana Way
Suite M333
Palm Beach

Above: Robert Nava, Untitled, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 60" × 48" (152.4 cm × 121.9 cm) © Robert Nava
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Installation View, Robert Nava, January 6 – 17, 2021, Pace Gallery, Palm Beach © Robert Nava

Pace Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of five new large-scale paintings by New York-based artist Robert Nava at the gallery’s recently opened seasonal space in Palm Beach, Florida. Driven by his desire to “make new myths” responsive to our times, Nava has developed an uncompromisingly personal visual language that has established him as one of the most innovative painters working today. Drawing inspiration from sources as disparate as prehistoric cave paintings, Egyptian art, and cartoons, Nava creates magical worlds and fantastical figures that invite viewers to tap into their childlike imaginations. In this new series of paintings, Nava hones the iconography of sharks to explore the dualities of good and evil present in the subject matter—a theme that runs throughout his oeuvre.

Building on the groundbreaking approach of artists like Jean Dubuffet and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nava combines spray paint, acrylics, and grease pencil with everyday materials to create thought-out composites of hybrid monsters that he first reworks obsessively in his sketchbooks before transferring them over to large canvases. Often developed to the vitalizing beat of techno and house music, his paintings conjure a realm awash in magic and possibility, where beings are always seemingly on the verge of transmogrification. Though offering viewers respite from the more cynical and dystopian aspects of today’s world, his paintings do not, however, veer into escapism as exemplified with his latest body of work.

Nava was initially drawn to sharks because of the formal opportunities they offered him. Rendering these figures through the repetition of triangular shapes, Nava continues to blur the lines between reality and fiction in his signature style by morphing his sharks into supernatural beings. In this instance, he uses a boxcutter, a tool he used often in his previous day job, to amplify his sharks’ jaws to unnatural proportions. On a symbolic level, Nava has long been fascinated by the duality of the antihero—a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities but nonetheless has genuine intentions. Nava points out that whenever we see sharks or ferocious monsters in art, man is always in the process of slaying them, as in, for example, Medieval Christian imagery where dragons are shown with spears in their sides. But, as he argues, history has shown us that even angels, which are typically depicted as benevolent entities, have the potential for violence and betrayal.

Continuously mining a range of sources from pop culture to ancient mythology, Nava creates a new iconography around the subject matter of sharks with this new body of work by presenting these nautical creatures in a sympathetic light. In this series Nava challenges viewers’ preconceived notions of sharks as the vicious and dangerous monsters that they are commonly portrayed as in mainstream culture, most notably seen in Steven Spielberg’s iconic film Jaws which redefined the horror film genre. Furthermore, the works in this exhibition reinforce Nava’s idiosyncratic style which exudes a playful candidness that defies the pretensions of high art, while altering viewers’ subconscious associations with a set of symbols and images that have been embedded in culture over time. Through his meditation on sharks, Nava underscores the duality of good and evil latent in all beings.

Following Pace’s exhibition in Palm Beach, Nava has a forthcoming a solo show with Vito Schnabel Gallery in New York City in February 2021. Nava’s work can also be found in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, ICA Miami, and Zuzeum Art Centre, Latvia.

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Robert Nava

Driven by his desire to “make new myths” responsive to our times, Robert Nava has created a chimerical world of metamorphic creatures, drawing inspiration from sources as disparate as prehistoric cave paintings, Egyptian art, and cartoons. Rendered through a raw, energetic mixing of spray paint, acrylics, and grease pencil, his large-scale paintings of fantastical beasts exude a playful candidness that defies the pretensions of high art and invites viewers to reconnect with the unbridled imagination of their childhoods.

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Palm Beach — Robert Nava, Jan 6–Jan 17, 2021