Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Jim Nutt: Coming Into Character presents forty-five years of work by this distinguished Chicago-based painter and draftsman. The exhibition, however, is not a conventional retrospective. Rather, it celebrates Nutt’s extraordinary achievement by focusing on the work of the past 20 years—his haunting and meticulously rendered portraits of imaginary women. A selection of earlier paintings and drawings is presented to showcase the artist’s unique creativity and trace the development of the imagery and formal devices Nutt has perfected in the ongoing portrait series. The exhibition, which is laid out roughly chronologically, also pairs a number of paintings with their graphite-on-paper studies in order to better elucidate Nutt’s artistic process.

The imaginary portraits, so called because they are in the traditional format of a portrait while the figures come completely from Nutt’s vibrant imagination, are generally squarish in shape and modest in scale. They emerged in the mid-1980s, at which time Nutt’s titles became evocative but nonspecific one-syllable words, and explore the nature of line, color, and other formal interests within the motif of arresting and highly stylized faces. The luminous compositions are further enhanced by the dynamic relationship that occurs between the image and the artist-designed or painted frames, a long-standing characteristic of Nutt’s work.

This exhibition is organized by Lynne Warren, Curator.

Generous support for Jim Nutt: Coming into Character is provided by The Henry Luce Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Mary Ittelson and Rick Tuttle, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Henry and Gilda Buchbinder Family, Marilyn and Larry Fields, and Cleve E. Carney. Support for this exhibition catalogue was provided by an anonymous donor.

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