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Medusas Lightning

Medusas Lightning
signed, inscribed and dated '"Medusa Le Tough" Nava 18' (on the reverse)
oil and spray paint on canvas
67 x 67 7/8in. (170.2 x 172.5cm.)
Executed in 2018
Sorry We're Closed, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2018.
Brussels, Sorry We're Closed, Robert Nava, 2018.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 2018, Medusas Lightning is a vivid example of Robert Nava’s playful engagement with mythology and art history. Rendered in the artist’s signature combination of spray paint and oil, it demonstrates his bold unravelling of traditional aesthetic values, consciously embracing raw, childlike modes of expression. Rising from the depths of the ocean, a green serpentine monster snakes its way across the canvas. A flash of yellow in the upper right-hand corner, and a jagged linear bolt below, conjure the titular lightning, the sky darkening ominously behind. The work invokes the Greek legend of Medusa: the snake-haired Gorgon whose gaze had the power to turn her onlookers to stone. As a subject she recurs throughout the artist’s practice, nourishing his chimeric universe of demons and spectres. Drawing upon some of art history’s earliest subjects, Nava seeks to dismantle the notions of beauty and proportion that took hold in antiquity: here, his monster surges forth in an unschooled riot of colour and texture, tearing up art’s rulebooks in her wake.

Nava discovered a love of painting and drawing during childhood, when a school trip to the Art Institute of Chicago introduced him to the work of Goya, Delacroix, Ingres and others. He went on to complete his MFA at Yale University School of Art, where he felt liberated from the constraints of ‘correct’ technique imposed upon him as a schoolboy and undergraduate. ‘I ran completely ran in the other direction’, he recalls, ‘because there’s just a lot more room in what people would call the “incorrect” ways of painting’ (R. Nava, quoted in conversation with S. Hallström, émergent magazine, online). Working to a throbbing soundtrack of techno music, he plunders everything from ancient art and cartoons to the works of Vincent van Gogh and Huma Bhabha, creating fantastical compositions that sparkle with wild, subversive energy. Nava’s desire to deskill his own hand places him within a lineage that extends from Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly through to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Albert Oehlen. ‘Good painting’, his works proclaim, is little more than a myth: instead, like the Medusa herself, art is metamorphic, shape-shifting and volatile. Here, Nava allows it to run free, in all its wonder and magic.

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