By Álvaro de Benito | May 28, 2024

Standing before the expressive forcefulness of Mexican-American Robert Nava (East Chicago, USA, 1985) can be risky. At first glance, the primitivism in the technique used in his canvases is shocking in the conversion of the strength of the stroke and the basics of the gesture into a language that agglutinates a brute force. Perhaps for that reason, the usual tendency of those who face his work is to quickly pigeonhole it out of the academic, out of that refinement that is presupposed -although less and less- to those who fill the room of a museum, to let themselves be carried away by the urgency of expression in front of that pretended good taste.


For his first monographic exhibition in a museum, the one that concerns us at Madrid's Thyssen Bornemisza, veteran curator Guillermo Solana has arranged 17 large-format works that partly summarize that incessant activity that has led the Indian to position that immediacy within, at last, the institutions. And it is so not only because of what has been analysed above, but also because of the very subject matter of the proposal, a broad contemporary and infernal bestiary that advocates leaning towards the thought of violence and the contrast of good and evil, of mythology and its agents, which may well be translated into the denunciation of colonialism or the power and terror generated. Mutilated animals, representatives of the powers that be, perhaps earthlier than imaginary, are found between the absolutism of subjugation and the elimination of balance.


Nava comments that his Hispanic influence is evident, both by root and by historical exposure to it, to which is added a Latin American devotion to that colonial revisionism and to pre-Columbian expressions. However, it would be a mistake to constantly evoke that academic side that may underlie his subconscious and to avoid the references of the experiences and the street, of that urban art and popular culture, exposed in his works through the clear zoomorphic references close to animation, the use of poor-quality materials such as acrylic spray or the urgency of the brushstroke in favour of expression. Terror and playfulness, garish colours and evident references to that wide catalogue of created and recreated beings that manage to channel anguish or terror in favour of criticism and the evolution of a perception of individual reality that, as such, broadens the limits of the influence of the vital trajectory in subjectivity and, therefore, in the overflow of expression.

Robert Nava's exhibition as part of the Small Format program can be seen until September 22, 2024 at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Paseo del Prado, 8, Madrid, Spain.


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