Studio Visit: New Paintings by Mike Nava, The Basic Premise, Ojai
By Tom Pazderka
A hundred years ago, the idea of the genius artist shut-in was pervasive, almost as pervasive as the reverse idea of the very connected, very public artist-persona is today. Back then—the narrative goes—the artist labored alone, outside of society. The work remained undiluted by external forces. Art emanated from within.
With the advent of pop, art’s absorption of mass culture was complete. Pop artists weren’t the beginning of art’s mass cultural appropriation, they were symptomatic, the end result. Artists were always subject to external stimuli. What died with pop was not so much the artist-as-shut-in, but the idea that artists worked in a world outside of the mundane one that everybody else inhabited. Pop presented the inner world of the artist to the public, but the artist always worked with their inner and outer worlds in conjunction. Pop made this inner world commercially viable.
Fast forward to 2018 to the show “Studio visit: New paintings by Mike Nava” at the Ojai gallery, The Basic Premise. The exhibit presents the inner world of the artist and studio, as effects and objects of happenstance—bits and pieces of incidental art—where paint sloshes on tools, toys, chairs and paraphernalia, while the ‘real’ art is being made.
The ‘real’ art is there too, but true to the show’s title, “Studio Visit,” the meat and potatoes is in the installation of Nava’s studio—exploded onto the small stage of the gallery space. The paintings seem fragile, until one realizes they’re heavy and crusted with pounds and pounds of dripped paint. Nava shot his canvases with paint guns. They’re brushed, dripped and scraped. They bear the marks of a serene violence—holes and cuts like Burrough’s shotgun paintings.
Nava’s paintings straddle pop, abstraction and action painting, a popstraction
or abpoption. It’s nothing new, but Nava deploys his modernist leanings with the fervor and ferocity of a meth-addled corpse of Jackson Pollock. He sticks to his guns. The colorful palette betrays Nava’s proclivity to solitude. He is a dark soul, often painting to hardcore death metal. Nava’s colors speak less to a flowery joyfulness and more to bile and body fluids, heavy like the weight of flesh. “Studio visit” is fun and a little gross, a facet of the work which circles back to fun.