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Ron Wood Rolls Out His Art

Stone’s exhibit includes portraits of Mick, Keith, Lennon, McCartney

Being able to crank a mean riff in an outfit often called the
world’s greatest rock & roll band isn’t enough for guitarist
Ron Wood. In fact, for him, respect as a visual artist is just as
important as being a Rolling Stone. Sunday, at the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, he got plenty of it: About
250 members paid twenty-five dollars a pop for a private preview of
the Hall’s new exhibit of Wood’s paintings and prints — and a
chance to hang with the artist himself.

Wood swept through the fourth-floor exhibit, politely mobbed by
fans who had already spent an hour and a half viewing about thirty
of his portraits, most of which depict fellow rock stars, past and
present: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Paul
McCartney and, of course, his band mates in the Stones. Though the
buzz was that Mick, Keith and Charlie, already in town for Monday’s
concert at Gund Arena, might also show, only Ron and his wife,
Josephine — and a large entourage — eventually appeared.

As he squeezed through the crowd, eyeing the prints of his
drawings and etchings, plus a few oil-on-canvas originals, Wood
answered questions and at one point grabbed a fan’s cell phone to
say hello to the person on the other end. Though security guards
insisted he wasn’t signing autographs, he scribbled out several
just before he left.

Passing the enormous oil of his wife, he grabbed her and
jokingly told her to stand in front of it for comparison. Someone
asked how long she had to pose for the portrait, and they both
laughed as she answered, “He can draw me by heart!”

The same might be said of his band mates, captured in all phases
of their careers since Wood joined them in the mid-Seventies. But
Wood says he usually works from sketches and photographs. In a
written comment next to a print titled “Mick III, 1991,” Wood
notes, “Mick’s really difficult to draw because his face is really
hard to catch.” Elsewhere, he humorously notes that capturing Keith
is easy, because he’s usually asleep.

Wood got into rock star portraiture as a way to get his foot in
the art-world door. “And then I could develop,” he explained. “I
paint animals and landscapes or buildings. It doesn’t matter. I do
enjoy drawing people. Bob Dylan’s got an interesting face. I enjoy
doing him.” But he added that the work he’s most proud of — a
portrait of Muhammed Ali — isn’t in the exhibit.

Curator Jim Henke later explained that he chose to focus on
Wood’s musical subjects because, after all, it is the Rock Hall. He
also observed, “(Wood) has an insight that’s different from what a
regular artist has because he’s a musician himself.”

In addition to Wood’s artwork — which can command anywhere from
a few hundred dollars to $20,000 for an original — the exhibit
walls contain several prominently placed quotes. “I would love to
have nothing to do but paint,” reads one. “When I really get
grabbed by it, there’s nothing I can do. I just have to drop
everything.”

Wood’s not thinking of putting down his guitar for a brush,
however. “[Painting] is always something you can do,” he explained,
“as well as the band. I see us rocking on into even older age. As
we’re getting better all the time, it’d be a shame to stop
now.”

Though he’s not depicted among Wood’s portraits, the exhibit
also contains a memorial to Wood’s longtime guitar tech, Royden
“Chuch” Magee, who died July 18th during a band rehearsal.
Considered “the world’s most famous roadie,” according to crewmate
Johnny Starbuck, Magee, the Stones’ first crew member, had been
asked several times to donate his large work trunk to the museum.
Sunday, the worn, battered case full of drawers containing
everything from guitar strings to Mick’s throat lozenges, went on
display, along with photos and personal effects. Magee, who worked
with Wood since his Faces days and also served as Charlie Watts’
drum tech, collapsed from a heart attack. The case he fell on is
also displayed, with a marker inscribed, “Chuch’s last resting
place.” On it sits one of the many band rehearsal set lists hung as
part of the exhibit. Under a half-finished list is written, “Chuch
Magee, 1947-2002. Dead End.”

Starbuck, who worked with Magee since 1975 and is now his
replacement, said the case, emblazoned with a large lick logo, is
only on loan to the hall. Though he admitted, “I raided it,” he
noted the crew has carried it with them since Magee’s death, and
added, “We’re keeping it. It belongs to the Rolling Stones. I want
it to stay in the family.”

The exhibit closes November 15th.

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