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Korrektiv Thought Experiment #4: Yesterday in Porn

Toot ‘n Toe: a 1969 painting in the collection at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (click on the title above for a larger view). I first saw an exhibition by the artist, Jim Nutt, at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington about 15 years ago, and felt an odd mix of feelings: of being smacked across the face with a 40 pound salmon, of not knowing how to respond to a dirty joke told in mixed company, and maybe even learning that the family dog finally had to be put down.

I had a chance to revisit some of his work recently, and had much the same response. If you can’t believe your eyes, or your conscience demands that you avert them, this helpful description has been provided by MMoCA:

A black-haired, naked man is propelled through a blue sky by a “toot” — gas he has jus passed. He gazes at a pink thought-balloon that contains a woman with folded arms and knife. “Hmmmm . . .” he says, obviously intrigued. His daydream is both a come-on and threat, as we can see from what his thoughts and, possibly, deeds may do to him. His snout-like nose makes him a “pig.” Sex is on his mind, but at a risk. Comic-book-styled snippet from girlie magazines surround him: women in provocative lingerie with panties, garter belt and nylons exposed. There are also feet of ladies in high-heeled shoes everywhere However lecherous his thoughts are, he pays a price. Fingers with pointed red nails scratch and cut him. Knife points protrude from his flesh. His chest is lacerated with blood oozing from open wounds.

Jim Nutt’s acrylic painting on Plexiglas is a screwball caricature inspired by comic books and cartoon strips. It is funny, vulgar, and deeply disturbing. If only in his thoughts, our guy is getting his comeuppance.

Do you buy it? If not the painting, this appraisal of the painting? If you were on the board of a local museum responsible for deciding whether to sponsor an exhibition of this painting, which of the following labels would you apply, and why?

(a) Pornographic
(b) Anti-pornographic
(c) Both
(d) Other

Please explain your decision.

Comments

  1. Henri Young says

    Well, it is obviously graphically porn. I don’t see it as anti-graphic. Perhaps anti-self abuse,however, I doubt the artist would be one to stand in the breach between Jocelyn Elders and American youth. Maybe he’s a phoney poaching off universally held moral beliefs in order to justify porn. I vote “a”.

    On a related point, did anyone other than me notice how the Henry Gallery expansion served to obscure the beautiful bronze statue of George Washington. It was so wrong in so many ways and symbolized so much that is so wrong with post-modern America.

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