The Rolling Stones’s Ronnie Wood may go down as one of rock’s greatest guitarists. Would it be so much for the man to ask that his longstanding art practice garner the same amount of critical love?
Well, you can’t always get what you want.
More than 100 of Wood’s works, including paintings, sculptures, and etchings, are set to go on view for a week starting tomorrow at Ashridge House, a historic manor in Hertfordshire, England, as a benefit for the National Health Service. Many have never before been seen, including a spate of artworks made during quarantine. Others would fall into the category of Wood’s greatest hits, like a large painted tapestry reimagining the famous photoshoot behind the Stones’s Beggar’s Banquet album.
The show occasioned The Guardian to query critics on what they thought of his work, and they didn’t pull any punches. The group was particularly unimpressed with Wood’s homage to Picasso’s Guernica and Three Dancers, each reinterpreted with members of his band.
“He seems to have taken one of the greatest and most moving works of art, a desolate cry against war, and used it as the basis for terrible fan art to, er, himself,” critic Oliver Basciano told the paper. “Art is often about having a decent dollop of chutzpah, but this takes the biscuit.”
“Ronnie is infinitely better at playing the guitar than playing with a paintbrush,” added Louisa Buck of the . “Only a rockstar ego would think that it’s OK to put himself and his band boogieing on down amongst the devastation of Guernica. And Mick as a Picasso dancer? Please, no. If he wanted to raise funds for the NHS why didn’t he do a gig?”
Wood’s art practice goes back to the early 1960s, when he trained at the Ealing Art College. He’s made work regularly throughout his career, including contributing album art for his band. Mick, Keith, and the rest of the Stones often feature as subjects in his work.
Guardian critic Jonathan Jones is not a fan of hagiography. “It’s impossible to separate a rock star’s art from their music,” Jones said. “The Rolling Stones are the sexiest and most demonic rock band in history and Ronnie Wood seems as entranced and appalled by their devilish antics as any bystander.”
Wood, for his part, cites the historic English manor as his inspiration. “I’ve long been inspired by the beauty of Ashridge House and its incredible gardens” Wood said in a statement. “I’ve passed by it many times and have always been intrigued by what it’s like inside and the story of the place. I’ve recreated Ashridge in many of my paintings over the years, so to finally go inside and explore such a historic and fascinating place and have the opportunity to show my work there is a really special moment.”
The ticketed exhibition will be on view from August 21 to 27. Proceeds from the show will be donated to the National Health Service.