Jim Nutt is amazing, I finally got over to the MCA and saw Coming into Character. This is a show of portraits over anything else, you have a selection of pieces from his Harry Who Days, which are also portraits, but all of those are over shadowed by his exploration in the imaginary women portraits.
When Jim Nutt was making his wild Plexiglas reverse paintings he used text to indicate and address things within the work, he also used mutations, growths and sales ads renderings. The use of all these devices was necessary to emphasize the work being made. Having painted them on Plexiglas the nature of these early pieces were to be slick, but in order for that to work with his style they had to be dramatic. This is where there is a huge leap from the early work of Jim Nutt and his Imaginary Women.
This series of portraits of women, extending back as far as the mid to late 80's, seems to break all the rules and yet they are a joy to be in the presence of. No longer utilizing text and objects to define the characters in his paintings, he invents patterns and techniques to describe and define. These women that Nutt is inventing stare out past the viewer in contemplation. We look in and are seduced, I want these women to exist because these works say so much; about me and how I see them, about Jim Nutt his approach to painting and his ability. Alas, these are invented, and they are exercises in painting, patterning and design. This show is the reason every design team should have a fine artists. and every museum should have a great designer.
I overheard one lady say she loved one piece in particular and just gushed over it, minutes later, husband in tow, she points to a piece next to the one she had previously addressed and said "Now that takes talent", I would have to agree with her on that. Almost all of these are squares, or just about, and most of them have the original painted frames, as I understand it, he painted his frames and the paintings at the same time, if the painting was altered majorly the frame would be readdressed to correspond with that change.
Of course this is an awful time to be blogging about this show because it is coming down this weekend, but for what it is worth, this exhibition shows Jim Nutt as a thoughtful and intense artists. Jim Nutt was a designer, an illustrator, this could have been his Achilles heal, but he worked within those limitations, not unlike Roger Brown, Ed Paschke or dozens of other Chicago artists, to excel at his chosen craft. It is great to look at this show as a Chicago artist, knowing how far we've come, and more importantly knowing who came before us.