John Nava studied art at UC Santa Barbara under Howard Warshaw and did his graduate work in Florence, Italy. His work is found in numerous private, corporate and public collections throughout the United States, Europe and Japan including the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) of Hawaii, the Triton Museum in San Jose, California and the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Ventura, California.
His work is represented in such important publications as Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture (Rizzoli, New York) by Charles Jencks who coined the term Post-Modernism and American Realism (Abrams, New York) and by Edward Lucie Smith, the first comprehensive history of realist painting in the United States. Nava has done large-scale public works including a 45’ wide mural for the Tokyo Grain Exchange in Tokyo, Japan and a 56’ wide fountain sculpture at 100 Brand Blvd. in Glendale, California. In 1998 he was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to paint a life-size double portrait of Jack and Rebecca Benaroya for Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.
In 1999 Nava was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to create three major cycles of tapestries for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The primary cycle of 25 tapestries depict The Communion of Saints and comprise 136 over life-size saints from throughout history and from all parts of the world. The tapestries were specially woven in Belgium combining custom weaving craftsmanship and digital technology. Our Lady of the Angels, the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, opened in September of 2002. In 2003 Nava’s tapestries for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels won the National Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Honor Award for Visual Art.
As the shrouds were removed from the five panels of a stunning new tapestry honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in the apse of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels before morning Mass on New Year’s Day, it seemed fitting that their removal required the sound of ripping Velcro.
A necessarily harsh sound to mark a clean break from a harsh year, one that, as Archbishop José H. Gomez acknowledged that morning, may have felt like a bad nightmare for many.
But more importantly, the new tapestry, featuring a 14-foot-high depiction of the cathedral’s namesake, hands outstretched, eyes cast toward the altar and congregation, was unveiled on the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
And by the time Mass was finished, it seemed as if it had always been there.
For those who have called the cathedral their spiritual home since it was built two decades ago, the 29-by-50-foot tapestry seemed to signal an end, rather than a new beginning.
Thinking big, burrowing into the details, and nding new paths between tradition and innovation are a few of the natural elements in the aesthetic process and mindset of the accomplished artist John Nava. All those facets come together, symbiotically, in the Ojai-based painter’s fascinating, not-to-miss exhibition at Sullivan Goss.
The craft of weaving has given us many of the most durable metaphors we have for high levels of communal integrity. It’s no accident that when people reach for the best appropriate way to praise a multicultural society, for example, they often speak of it as a “grand tapestry.”
A RETURN OF SORTS will take place during 1st Thursday when Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery celebrates the first solo exhibition in eight years for nationally-renowned painter John Nava.
To the gradually expanding list of cultural traditions defining Christmastime in Santa Barbara, we must fully acknowledge “100 Grand,” if it hasn’t already had its place secured on the official list.
Now in its seventh year and looking healthy and splendid, “100 Grand” is the pithily, cryptically and a accurately named exhibition at Sullivan Goss that offers art-hungry (and neophyte art-buying) Santa Barbarans a crack at 100 artworks priced under $1,000.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK
In John Nava's work, technical sophistication and a solid foundation in art history meet with a tremendous ambition for producing heroic works. In each of the artist's works, the choice to engage in technically difficult projects or to tackle complex ideas impresses at first glance. Where a lesser artist might hide behind his facility with oil paint, Nava chooses instead to make paintings that are also intellectually stimulating. He avoids a pedantic or preachy tone about the conflicts exposed in his paintings, giving his work the depth and complexity of real life.
For Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, John Nava innovated a new process for creating monumental tapestries. The artist starts by making a moderately-sized painting of the image he will eventually make into a tapestry. When the oil painting is ready, he scans the image into a computer. The artist then works through an exhaustive process whereby the digital image is configured for a special loom in Bruges, Belgium. The limited color palette of the loom and various textural considerations require special attention at this stage. When the specialized digital file for the loom is finished being prepared, Nava uploads the file via the internet to Belgium. A tapestry arrives several weeks later.
The artist holds several patents on the process and has completed numerous tapestry commissions since his work at the cathedral.
1973 M.F.A., Villa Schifanoia Graduate School of Fine Art, Florence, Italy
1969 B.A., College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
2003 National Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA) Design Honor Award for Visual Art (for tapestries in Our Lady of Angels Cathedral)
1993 Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for Stage Design
National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Hawaii
Triton Museum, San Jose, CA
Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Venura, CA
2004 Corpus Christi Tapestries, Corpus Christi University Parish, Toledo, OH
2004 St. Ann's Altar Triptych, St. Ann Catholic Church, Bartlett, TN
1999-2002 The Communion of the Saints, Our Lady of Angels, Los Angeles, CA
1998 Jack and Rebecca Benaroya, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA
1991 Prosephone, 48' mural for the Tokyo Grain Exchange, Tokyo, Japan
56' wide Fountain Sculpture, Glendale CA
Solo Exhibitions (selected list)
2017 JOHN NAVA: Painting & Tapestry, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
2009 Facing West, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
2008 The West Coast Ten, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
2008 Neo-Icons, Fresno Art Museum, CA
2006 JOHN NAVA: Neo-Icons, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
2003 John Nava: Selected Works, (catalog) Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Ventura, CA
2001 Communion of Saints, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA
2001 Hendrik Pickery Zaal of the Halls of the Belfry tower, Grote Markt, Bruges, Belgium
1999 Van de Griff Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
1997 Wright Gallery, New York, NY
1992 Koplin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
1991 Modernism, San Francisco, CA
1989 Weingart Gallery, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
1987 Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1986 University Art Gallery, Sonoma State University, Sonoma, CA (catalog)
1986 Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
1985 Pamela Auchincloss Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
1984 Modernism, San Francisco, CA
1982 Sabbatical Studies, Johnston Art Gallery, University of Redlands, Redlands, CA
1980 University Art Gallery, California State University at Fresno, CA
1979 Art Gallery, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA
1973 Galleria Vives, Mahon, Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
Group Exhibitions (selected list)
2005 A Broken Beauty: Figuration, Narrative, and the Transcendent in North American Art, Laguna Museum of Art, Laguna, CA
2005 Scenes of American Labor, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2004 Face to Face: Selected American Portraits, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA