COLLECT: Meet Rodrigo Nava

RODRIGO NAVA is a process-oriented sculptor with a focus on explosive-forming techniques.

VISIBLE FORCE by Rodrigo Nava

Born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1978, Nava mentored under artists Edgar Guzman, Joseph Fichter, and Franco Ciarlo. Through these experiences, Nava became familiar with the sculptural use of stone, ironwork and mixed media.

Nava took Fichter’s position as Head of Sculpture Department at The Putney School in Putney, Vermont, returning to stone sculpture and incorporating
process with materials such as wax, brass, and poured tin.

From his current studio in Putney, Nava explores the interaction between the intentional hand of the sculpture, the material quality of steel and experimental explosive processes that alter the form created by hand.

Although Nava frequents New York City, he maintains residence in Putney, where he continues to teach part-time, and at times holds process-restrained, temporary art collaborations.

You spend a lot of time in New York City, but maintain a studio in Putney, Vermont. What attracts you to making work in this environment?

The Vermont studio allows me to make work with few limitations. There is absolutely no way I could be making this work in any kind of urban setting. The potentially hazardous nature of my process would not allow it

What attracts you to process-based art making?

The self-imposed limits of my process allow me to better explore the design of my forms. The moment that I expand these pieces I allow myself I disconnect from them as objects permitting the process itself to be experienced and made visible.

At what point did you decide to let your sculpture go ‘out of your hands’, or have you always worked this way?

My earlier stone work also explored the same concept of disconnection from the object by imposing a physical experience on the form. These new works continue this exploration with an effort to further accentuate the visible change in the form and removal of the artist hand.

VISIBLE FORCE by Rodrigo Nava

You have had artist mentors in the past, and you currently employ another artist represented by Yellow Peril as an assistant (Flynn Grinnan). Is the master / apprentice relationship important to you, or would you define that relationship differently?

The nature of the fabrication of this current work requires extra hands. I have enjoyed the camaraderie involved in the labor of the work. The speeding up of the work also allows me to explore more freely in steel as opposed to model materials with less concern for lost time.

With an artist such as Grinnan whose work touches on some similar aspects as my own, the reward of having him at my studio in Vermont are the discussions about art and sculpture that begin after the work day has ended, the drawing sessions and collaborations and critiques.

What artists, works of art or experiences have provided influence for your work?

I have always been inspired by the simple stone tools and sculpture of the pre-Columbian Americas. Recently I visited the new Islamic wing at the Met in New York City and was moved by how visible the craftsman’s hand is in all of the decorative work. This work seems so far from what I am doing but yet very inspiring.

And of course, we have to ask: what’s next? How do you currently hope for this work to evolve?

I would like this work to be larger. I would like the work to live outside. I have begun the research and development as to how the work reacts to the process on a larger scale. So far so good, so look out for larger work in the near future.

This interview with Rodrigo Nava for COLLECT #5 was conducted by Marcel McVay, who curated the exhibition.  McVay is also the Manager of Yellow Peril Gallery.  Read the magazine online »