Rodrigo Nava: Expanded Forms

June 26 - October 25, 2015

Rodrigo Nava begins his sculptural process by creating an enclosed space fashioned from welded steel. His forms are fairly straightforward: a cone attached to a half dome, two intersecting pills, a bell muted by a saucer. They are beautifully crafted and airtight—unless you look closely at the seams. There you will find one point at which there is entry to the interior.

Through that entry point, Nava fills his forms with volatile gas and sets off a charge. The resulting explosion transforms a rigid, hard-edged object into a rigid yet subtly rippled one. The force of the explosion is visible at seams, corners, and intersections.

While the objects remain robust, muscular, and strong, the slight softening of their outlines creates a new dynamic in interpretation. The physical “experience” of each piece is manifest in the changes we see in its body. Allusions abound, from the deflation of a child’s blow-up toy to the sagging of a once-young physique.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

I created the early sculptures in my Expansions series by hydroforming—injecting water under pressure into welded steel sculptures. The “soft” form of the water reshaped the “hard” steel from the inside out, transforming a two-dimensional plane into a three-dimensional object. Weight, gravity, and the spontaneous element of chance played large parts in those early pieces.

As my work progressed, I experimented with alternative methods of shaping “hard” sculptures, eventually settling on combustible gas. The forms created by my forays into combustibles are reminiscent of animal skins, canteens, pillows, and inflatable tops.

We are used to seeing steel that has been arced and torqued by machines, or seamless objects that have retained steel’s rigid nature throughout the fabrication process. But what are we to make of steel objects that billow at their extremities and bulge at their seams? My sculptures—inflated yet impregnable—seek to expand our everyday notions of the character of steel. Straightforward yet obtuse, they are packages of events that have yet to be opened.

— Rodrigo Nava

This exhibit was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council.


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