Tag Archives: Mario Naves

“Losing the Cow”: Paintings by Mario Naves

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Bryce Canyon, Utah; Bryan Mullennix, Getty Images

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The following essay is included in the catalogue accompanying “Mario Naves: Losing the Cow”, an exhibition on display at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. Installation photos of the paintings can be seen here.

“A hell of a place to lose a cow”–that’s how the Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce, back in 1870, described the canyon in southern Utah that would come to bear his name. Almost fifty years later, the Suprematist artist Theo Van Doesburg painted an arrangement of rectangles derived from pencil studies of a cow. In between and surrounding these poles revolve some curious tangents—about perception and subjectivity; nature’s bounty; hierarchies of form; and the transformative pleasures of art.

What can be gained and what might be overlooked in losing the cow? For Bryce, the astonishing landscape of the American West was a hindrance; for van Doesburg, geometry superseded observation. The world, in both cases, proved inescapable.

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Theo van Doesburg, Study for Compostion VIII (c. 1917) and Composition VIII (The Cow) (c. 1918); courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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The paintings in this exhibition don’t begin from anything that specific–there’s not a barnyard in sight of my Lower East Side studio. Rather, each image is the culmination of impulses and allusions that arise during the process of painting.

Chance incident is pivotal. Blind alleys, unexpected digressions and a variety of conundrums are set out, jettisoned, excavated and explored. In pursuing and then clarifying this turn of events, I aim to create paintings that are as puzzling and peculiar as life itself, cows definitely included.

© 2020 Mario Naves

“Losing the Cow” at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY


The Flying Lesson (2019-20), acrylic on paper mounted on panel, 20″ in diameter; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

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I am pleased to announce that Elizabeth Harris Gallery will be mounting an exhibition of my recent paintings come this September. “Losing the Cow” was originally scheduled for last April, but–well, you know, the world got in the way. The show will be open on September 5th and run through October 24th. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

As for the exhibition title–it involves Mormon pioneers, Theo van Doesburg and the lack of agriculture on the Lower East Side. Check this space in a week or so–I’ll be posting the catalogue essay.


Artist Snapshot


Mario Naves, Dominant Cultural Narrative (2020), acrylic on canvas over panel, 24″ in diameter; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY (Photo: Adam Reich)

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Thanks to the good graces of painter Jill Nathanson, I’ll be teaching this spring at The Art Students League as part of “Visiting Artists and New Abstraction“. ASL has posted an interview with me on its website as part of the Artist Snapshot series. It can be found here.

“Open Doors/Open Studios 2019” @ The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center

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I will be participating in “Open Doors Open Studios”, the 23rd annual open studios event at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center. Please stop by on either Friday, May 31st, between 6:00-9:00 p.m., or Saturday, June 1st, between 4:00-8:00 p.m. My studio is located on the fourth floor. 
For more information, click here.

Talk @ Adelphi University

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I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be traveling to Garden City, NY, to talk about my work and influences at Adelphi University.

“Mario Naves: Long Island City” @ Elizabeth Harris Gallery in Chelsea

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Mario Naves, Synapse (2016-17), acrylic on panel, 12 x 12″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY, NY

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I’m pleased to announce “Long Island City”, an exhibition of recent paintings at Elizabeth Harris Gallery–my seventh solo show at this venue! The opening reception is on Saturday, January 6th, from 3:00-6:00 p.m. the exhibition runs until February 10th. More information can be found here.

Also, two paintings of mine will be included in “Surface and Substance”, a group show curated by Hester Simpson at The Painting Center. The opening takes place on Thursday, January 11th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m.; the exhibition itself continues until January 27th.

© 2017 Mario Naves

Catalogue essay accompanying “Bête Noire”, a group exhibition at Five Myles


Nancy Grimes, Custody (2017), oil on linen, 16 x 32″; courtesy the artist

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When asked to participate in an exhibition centered on the theme of “bête noire”, not a few of the invited artists scratched their heads and furrowed their brows. At least, that seemed to be the gist of their responses.

A French literary trope connoting a person or object that is intensely disagreeable and to be strenuously avoided? What right-minded person would want to be lumped under that rubric? The emphasis of the phrase, however, is as much on degree as substance: intensity and strenuousness figure prominently. There are plenty of things that are irksome, but few of them call to us with something like passion. That damned thing won’t let me go and I insist on holding onto it. That’s the rub of bête noire and why it persists as a vital bit of phrase-making. This vexing quality pervades the work of the artists featured in “Bête Noire”; animates it, too.


Natasha Hesketh, Portrait of What Is Not Being Said (2016), acrylic on paper, 24 x 18″; courtesy the artist

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How these paintings, photographs and sculptures embody the notion of “bête noire” is as idiosyncratic as the visions informing them. Contradictions are abundant. The digitally manipulated dreamscapes of Laura Dodson mull the intransigence of memory and, along with it, the disappointments of nostalgia. The piecemeal and seemingly dehumanizing nature of contemporary relationships are deftly negotiated in the works-on-paper of Natasha Hesketh. Thomas Nozkowski’s off-kilter abstractions embody sharply felt if distinctly occluded encapsulations of lived experience. David Hornung’s ramshackle iconography–at once, homespun and hieratic–serves as a conduit for a dry and whimsical poetry. Matthew Blackwell and his revolving band of cartoonish grotesques are less given to reverie than a frantic and sometimes enraged form of slapstick.

Comedy filters through the work of more than a few of these artists. A mordant wit can be divined in the vases of Elisa D’Arrigo–gnarled vessels that admit to a balletically contrived pathos. Nancy Cohen’s hobbled amalgamations of biomorphic form and utilitarian purpose are charged with tender irony. Industrial means endow Fara’h Salehi’s sculptures of insect life with a streamlined efficiency that doesn’t waylay biological specificity. Specificity is also Loren Munk’s domain, albeit transferred to the art world, in which the ebb-and-flow of history is inventoried with unyielding diligence and chromatic punch.

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Nancy Cohen, Two-Step (2015), glass, metal, rubber, wire and handmade paper, 22 x 22 x 10″; courtesy the artist

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Other images are moody and mysterious, indicative of nothing so much as the limits of understanding. Stephanie Hightower’s paintings create an enigmatic patience game from diagrammatical overlays of topographical shapes, silhouettes, and fleeting allusions to history. Lee Tribe’s totemic effigies, whether rendered in steel or charcoal, evince a temperament alternately driven by the heroic and the haunting. The myriad and often unsettling complications of family are rendered with luminous clarity in the tableaux of Nancy Grimes.

A laundry list of artists only goes so far in elaborating the overriding theme of a given exhibition. The true test comes with how the works themselves engender and underline surprising commonalities, unbridgeable peculiarities, and nagging attractions. The juxtapositions set out in “Bête Noire” are multivalent, not a little irksome, stubbornly put forth, and undeniable in their integrity. The puzzlement is yours for the taking.

© 2017 Mario Naves




Interview at “Savvy Painter”

Savvy Painter

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I’m pleased to announce that Antrese Wood, host of the invaluable podcast Savvy Painter, has posted a conversation we had a while back about the vagaries of representation, abstraction and other pictorial concerns. I hope you give it a listen!

“New Gallery/New Work” at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY

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I’m pleased to announce that a recent painting of mine will be on display in “New Gallery/New Work”, an exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. More information can be found here.

“Mario Naves; Paintings” at Pratt Institute

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Mario Naves, Reason in the Grass (2015), acrylic on panel, 28 x 26″; courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY

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I’m pleased to announce that an exhibition of my paintings will be on display in The President’s Office Gallery at the Brooklyn campus of Pratt Institute. The exhibition will run from January 30 through April 14.

An opening reception will be held on Tuesday, February 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

More information can be found here.