José Nava

29 November 2016 – 20 January 2017

Curated by Hannah Thorpe

The Koppel Project

José Nava is a Mexican fisherman turned self-taught artist. Nava was born in 1937 and grew up in the barrios of Acapulco on the pacific coast of Mexico. In 1961 he travelled to Europe and settled in England. Nava quickly became involved in the experimental theatre company, The People Show, building sets, props and costumes and performing internationally.

After leaving the theatre Nava dedicated his time to painting and drawing, producing a vast body of work, which has yet to be fully catalogued. Living in a self-built ‘shed’ in Kentish Town, reminiscent of a Mexican barrio house filled with stuffed fish, sculptures, an intriguing array of artefacts, art materials, textiles and hundreds of sketchbooks and folders full of artwork, Nava never really left Mexico, bringing its vibrancy back to London, preserving memories and feelings within his work and the world he has built around him.

The Koppel Project is honoured to present the first solo exhibition of works by José Nava. After years of painting and drawing reclusively, Nava will share a significant selection of his life’s work, which has remained largely unseen until now. This exhibition brings together drawings, paintings, sculpture and objects from Nava’s workshop.

This exhibition has generously been supported and made possible by Phaidon Press and Habitat.

This exhibition features the documentary ‘Big Fish’ by Zadoc Nava.

Big Fish is a lyrical, impressionistic portrait of José Nava, a Mexican artist living in London, by his eldest son, and a compelling exploration of their ambivalent relationship.

José came to England in 1962 for a short visit – and never went back. Over the years he has carved out a space for himself as a theatre performer and a self-taught painter. The film chronicles his life from the barrios of Acapulco to ‘this cold land’, where he feels like ‘a fish in the wrong pond!’ It explores how circumstances, including his father’s murder, have influenced Jose’s unique way of seeing.

Zadoc Nava is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer based in London. His photographs have been published and exhibited internationally, with solo shows in London and Belfast. A monograph of his photography, Shadowlands, is available from Black Dog Publishing.