The Double Meaning of "Woody": R.W. Northcutt's "Indigenous Genius" Mixes Wooden Shoes, Sex Toys

This exhibit comes off as an elaborate joke, as well as an intellectual treatise on the natural world's influence on building and sculpture. As a result, it's a little too busy being clever for one to completely enjoy the joke or the art.

All of the "artifacts" on display come from the private collection of R.W. Northcutt, an Ohio-based professor of woodworking. Northcutt also includes a series of drawings he executed himself. Northcutt's own works are the most successful artistically, like his graph of the highly technological, unseen supports underneath beavers' dams (it's funny). But much of his "collection" relies too heavily on background story that stretches the truth pretty far, like the displayed wooden shoes made by a collaboration of woodpeckers and beavers. The collective moral of Northcutt's stories is that man has much to learn from animals that build, and we should avoid and avert our antagonism to them, which could possibly result in breaking down the human-animal communication barrier (and assure the survival of our wooden furniture).

It's certainly a valuable lesson. But Northcutt's tongue-in-cheek, believe-it-or-not tales make this exhibit as much about the collector/artist's own pretensions and stunts as the content and themes posed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- big ups to Northcutt for displaying not one, but two sex toys. Yes, there is an actual "wood pecker" on display. We challenge you to find the other toy. Hint: Don't think "beaver," think "butthole."

Through August 26. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose, 713-523-9530.

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