Robert Nava at Pace | London

Robert Nava’s large-scale figurative work supply sprawling odes to the fantasies of a sure class of preteen Dungeons & Dragons fanatic. Legendary beasts, angels, and demons are rendered in thick, vibrant brushstrokes and frantic scratches of grease pencil. Nava’s works usually have nostalgic titles like Conscious Wolf Deity, 2022, quoting the dad-joke-level pun of a current meme, or Artax Gate (Earlier than) and (After), 2022, a nod to the 1984 movie The NeverEnding Story. If Jason Rhoades probed the inside machinations of postindustrial American masculinity, Nava has mined the consciousness of the man-child Redditor. However the place Rhoades discovered desublimated debauchery, Nava has created a solid of largely innocent mythological creatures.

In Hearth Keeper VS Demise, 2021, a black-hooded grim reaper driving atop an alligator battles in opposition to a multilimbed satan. The pocket-size picture on the guidelines suggests a third-grader’s drawing, however Nava’s practiced management of his medium belies his juvenile material. Thick globules of white acrylic paint add depth and texture to the ghoul’s scythe and physique, contrasting with the diffusive MS Paint­–inflected use of spray paint. Whereas Nava’s critics have latched onto the puerile components of his observe to declare his works little greater than gimmicks, the artist’s steadfast dedication to producing work that undergo when digitized subverts any perceived marketability.

Nava’s method is paying homage to iconoclastic American painters like William Copley, William Wegman, and Joan Brown, whose work within the late Nineteen Seventies undermined conventional notions of style and talent. Canonized in a 1978 New Museum exhibition curated by Marcia Tucker, this technology of “unhealthy” portray stood aside from earlier deskilling actions in its self-reflexive use of irony. Equally, Nava’s work supply a tongue-in-cheek response to classicizing forces, a celebration of unbridled childlike creativeness underpinned by an consciousness of the artist’s personal tenacity.

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