The dark side of time is writ large on Johnny Lee Miller’s strong and lithe body. He grows bigger, grayer, older and more implacable. The death of a child is like adding several decades to an old man’s age. Death is a logical ending for a story, especially one that begins with a boy in a cowboy hat rushing up a hill to die at the first dawn of war. The memory of Johnny Lee Miller as a boy — wiry, expressive, solid — warms the heart, but the nearness of death — also the shooting, the leaping, the wait for the guns to go off, the screaming that begins as the baby grows — the dread of not knowing what will happen next, and the lingering realization that what will happen next is hell — give that same wistful feeling to everyone who meets him in the paintings of Jim Nutt.
Mr. Nutt’s depictions of the war zones and the starving landscapes and the harrowing figures are strongest when they are out of focus, when it’s possible to discern the underlying images. When the figures are glaring, when the monsters and villains are in focus, Mr. Nutt adds a layer of horror not found in other war art. In these shots, we see terrifying characters like Johnny Lee Miller living dangerously and in the process of becoming terrible. That this man becomes an outlaw and crosses paths with cannibals and child murderers is meant to provoke awe. He becomes almost mythic in the spectacular work of art that Nutt, 59, is making.