Ronnie Wood in the Mercury
Art that rocks
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By F. Andrew Taylo

If Ronnie Wood wasn't lead guitarist of the cretaceous Rolling Stones, you would have to wonder about the single-mindedness of his subject matter. It's the sort of thing the cops find pinned to every flat surface inside the house after they get the court order to kick the door down. "As near as we can tell he had a obsession with old rock stars and some other celebrities...also, we think he may have been stalking the Rolling Stones."

Painting of celebrities can seem either trite or mercenary in the wrong hands, but in this case it's simply a matter of the artist painting what he knows. True, most of the work has a theatricality to it and dramatic lighting, but this is the world Wood lives in. It is nearly impossible to separate Ronnie Wood the celebrity and rock star from Ronnie Wood the artist. I do wonder what it would look like if rather than Mick, the rock god he was painting was, say, Murray the podiatrist.

Wood has been an artist longer than he's been a musician, and while there's little doubt that the prices for his work are kicked up several notches by his rock icon status, his skill is undeniable. I've been fortunate enough to see his work many times over the years and to observe his stylistic progression. The first works I saw were primarily black and white, occasionally with tints or spot color. Over the years he's added more color, but still quite often very subtly, allowing the tone of the paper to dominate. Sometimes he falters with the full-color pieces, creating works with too much sameness in values and tone. More recently he's been hanging out with Sebastian Kruger, and the influence shows. Kruger is the world's premier caricature artist, but it isn't the caricature you can now see in Woods work, it's the rich textures and fine modeling of form. There's less of a graphic look to his more recent work and more dimensionality and more varied color.

The show covers several periods of the artist's work with a large print of, appropriately enough, Jack Nicholson's face greeting you at the door. Wood has captured the maniacal intensity of the actor, which isn't terribly surprising, as all of his work seems to crackle with energy like an ungrounded microphone. Much of his work features bold slashes of dark pigment expertly describing an unmistakable likeness. I don't know if Wood's art will last the ages, but I can say for certain that he's shown more quality in his art than the Stones have in their last few albums.

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Ronnie Wood Age 13
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