Artist Jim Nutt’s characters: Shakespearean?

February 3, 2011

Hairy Who artist Jim Nutt now has a 45-year retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, “Coming Into Character.” I couldn’t resist. Shakespeare might be turning over in his grave, and Nutt revolving in his bed, but here are a half-dozen Nutt portraits linked with the iconic Shakespeare characters that Nutt’s subjects might play.  All photos provided by MCA Chicago.

 

 

I have a kind of alacrity in sinking. –Falstaff

Here’s what a lifetime of overindulging in sack will do to you. Nutt’s “Lippy” (1968) is, if anything, even more disgusting than Shakespeare’s comic antihero. Wearing a Band-aid and dripping boogers, Lippy has a pate like an old pink eraser.
 


Screw your courage to the sticking-place. –Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth appears to rake her husband over the coals in Nutt’s “Pink Encounter” (1971). Appropriately, the air is filled with dismembered, vaguely phallic body parts.

 
Was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won? –Richard III
 
Thumbnails of granny panties, complete with garters, render the cackling seducer in Nutt’s “A He Haw” (1969) even more alarming.
 

If I be waspish, best beware my sting. –Kate

 Nutt’s super-smart, coolly annoyed subject in “Whisk” (1999) sports a natural repellent, a barbed blouse. But once she gets her stickers into you, expect a burr under the saddle for life.

 

 
O curse of marriage, that we can call these delicate creatures ours, and not their appetites! –Othello
 
In Nutt’s “Steping (sic) Off the Room” 1971), the whole world seems to have taken on the colors and patterns of this man’s, um, broom handle. Talk about obsession.
 

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. –Ophelia

Like spurned lovers everywhere, the woman in Nutt’s “Fret” (1990) seems to be puzzling over what went wrong. Perhaps it was her black nose?

O that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! –Hamlet

Nutt’s self-portrait, “Wee Jim’s Black Eye” (1986), captures the artist in the act of capturing himself. He looks troubled, hemmed in by his own thoughts. Maybe he’s bothered by his hairy palms.