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Jim Nutt (American, born 1938)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American painter. Studying at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago until 1965, Nutt was a principal member of the Hairy Who group. His work was influenced by his teacher Ray Yoshida’s use of the comic-strip format and by the work of outsider artist Joseph E. Yoakum (1886/8–1972), whose untrained intuitive work showed Nutt that he could pursue a personal vision in his painting. Using a technique of painting on the back of plexiglass to create a shiny graphic surface, he often painted scabrous figures in the junk aesthetic of venacular culture, as in She’s Hit (1966–7; New York, Whitney). He also split his work up into panels, making a nonsense narrative, in works such as Why Did He Do It? (1967; see 1994 exh. cat., p. 72). Abandoning the plexiglass technique in the 1970s, he began to paint on canvas and also transposed his protagonists from the comic strip format to a stage set, often with several large characters surrounded by many smaller ones. These paintings frequently present an imaginary absurdist theatre, where the characters are in a state of sexual frustration, as in his I’ve Waited a Long Time for This (1975–6; see 1994 exh. cat., p. 99). Later he created a series of portraits of imaginary characters with grotesque noses, such as Pug (1990; see 1991 exh. cat.). The delicate and somber technique, together with the imagery, reveals a debt to Old Masters such as Breughel or Bosch as well as a striking similarity to Picasso’s portraits of Dora Maar.

Francis Summers
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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