Robert Nava - New Now New York Wednesday, March 9, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Robert Nava’s energetic canvases transport the viewer to a childlike world of real and imaginary creatures—from sharks and angels to dragons and, as seen in Vision Probably Rabies, rabid dogs. For Nava, these fantastical themes represent an effort to return to the marvelous worlds his imagination conjured in his youth. After earning his MFA at Yale University in 2011, the Brooklyn-based artist departed from the academic techniques he learned and fostered an approach that has earned him comparisons to the Bad Painting movement of the 1980s, as well as to the work of art brut painters such as Jean Dubuffet. Executed in 2019, Vision Probably Rabies captures the diverse array of Nava’s influences from graffiti and cave art to cartoons, whilst tapping into the artist’s raw, unhindered imagination.

    "I wanted to return to my childhood interests. I wanted to see these fabled creatures in my studio. I’m interested in a new kind of mythmaking, even though there are no real stories behind them yet." —Robert Nava

    Deeply interested in fantastical animal hybrids—a serpent with the head of a tiger, a shark with feathery angels’ wings—Nava often divides his canvases in half with a diagonal line, on each side of which are the fragmentary forms of different creatures. In Vision Probably Rabies, the diagonal creates a boundary between the outline of a growling dog and the more schematic figures of a snake and an amorphous face. The effect of this divide is to add a subtle layer of complexity and ambiguity to the composition; indeed, the artist’s paintings are often more complex than they appear at first glance, planned over many sketched designs before he puts paint to canvas. “I think the zone comes by continuously drawing in my sketchbook,” the artist revealed. “It’s like an athlete practicing a three-point shot—when the game comes, he can just hit the shot without thinking about it.”ii


    ii  Robert Nava, quoted in Paul Laster, “Robert Nava on Unleashing the Child Within,” Art & Object, March 4, 2021, online.

    • Provenance

      Night Gallery, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019

    • Artist Biography

      Robert Nava

      Robert Nava (b. 1985) is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Using a rough and
      free-flowing hand, Nava recreates the innocent and unlearned art of childhood. His works are
      “carefully done wrong,” subverting the rigid fundamentals of painting and conventions of
      completeness that Nava learned as an MFA student at Yale University. Nava’s paintings often
      feature imagined mythological figures and histories of the artist’s creation whose drama is
      brought to life with the frenetic energy of the artist’s brush. 

      View More Works


Vision Probably Rabies

signed, partially titled and dated ""Probably Rabies" Nava 2019" on the reverse
acrylic and oilstick on canvas
60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $138,600

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen

Head of Sale, New Now

212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 9 March 2022