Night Gallery has opened a new show of works on paper by artist Robert Nava, Bloodsport, a body of works that continue Nava’s visceral renderings of dream states and surreal, tension-filled compositions that walk a line between brusque compositions and a surreal sense of horror.
Throughout the show, the artist answers the formal challenge of working in a broad range of scales, using these variations to embrace spontaneity and the unexpected in a manner that emphasizes both his composition and the materiality of the work, all pulled from a lifelong drawing practice that sits at the core os his work. The compulsive, near-constant act of drawing allows for intuitive gestures and interplays between materials to emerge without constraint. There is a common sense of freedom in the making and viewing of Bloodsport: unexpected interactions between acrylic, oil stick, and grease pencil upon the paper underscore the joyful experimentation that marks Nava’s distinctive style. Bodies and figures bleed together, creating strange, totemic images that seem like horror-filled fusions of mechanisms, otherworldly gods and paranormal figures.
Bloodsport locates itself in expansive landscapes: starlit skies, mountain ranges, and bodies of water. Playful and energized, the pieces are unified by an open-ended narrative structure as four-legged sharks, fire-breathing tigers, and winged rabbits navigate one another and their own hybridized bodies, providing a portal into the alternate realm they inhabit. One finds influences of historical painting within Nava’s compositions, whether epic scenes of conflict or dramatic chance encounters. In dialogue and individually, the works on view charge into the unknown with tenacity. We can understand the exchanges taking place between material and surface as visual manifestations of the dualities Nava explores: tension and harmony, balance and unpredictability, instinct and intention. Throughout the exhibition, seemingly oppositional energies meet in a convivial atmosphere as Nava’s singular take on figuration continues to surprise and charm. Such a carte blanche approach embodies the curiosity and indetermination Nava finds thrilling about art, and Bloodsport accordingly coalesces around a spirit of adventure. Bloodsport is exuberance on paper.
Using drawing as a launching pad for the exploration and elaboration of his practice, these works once again showcase an artist whose modes of practice, and his vision, continue to grow and evolve.
The show closes March 26th.
– D. Creahan
Robert Nava: Bloodsport [Night Gallery]