Jim Nutt

Toot-Toot Woo-Woo, 1970

American, 1938

This work painted on the reverse side of plexi-glass revives the tradition of reverse painting on glass that dates back to the icons of the Byzantine Empire and was widely popular as folk art in 19th century Austria and Bohemia. The content of his painting contains elements of sexuality and violence depicted a la comic book style with humor albeit dark humor. In the drama that is Toot-Toot Woo-Woo we observe a dominatrix-type female with her legs and flesh torn away floating above a small helpless male adrift in a flow of wave-like forms who proudly proclaims “I’m on my way”. The title Toot-Toot Woo-Woo, a phase commonly used by children to imitate the sound of a train whistle may be a reference to the thrill of being ‘on my way’. Although the content of this painting may be disturbing there are two surprising aspects; it’s humorous comic- like presentation and exacting precise craftsmanship.

Everything about the way this painting is made from the reverse Plexiglas technique to the carefully painted images and instructions on the back demonstrate an extreme fondness for craftsmanship. The reverse Plexiglas technique requires that the entire painting be carefully planned to the last detail before the artist ever lifts his brush. The process does not allow for a single error or change. What is normally painted last is painted first and so forth. When completed the Plexiglas provides a perfectly smooth shiny surface for the image. Also note that the frame rather than being an afterthought is an integral part of the painting and contains collaged and painted images.

The contrast between the content and the craft in Nutt’s work creates an irresistible tension. It draws the viewer in and makes him wonder how content which is banal, even scatological can also be so exquisite.

Buehler Title 1 original purchase, 1971