Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Butler Institute of American Art.

c. David Grim (taken 11/14/10)

On a lark a couple of friends and I decided to drive to Youngstown, Ohio to see a bunch of Ronnie Wood's paintings. While I have been known to enjoy a Rolling Stones song now and again, I have never been a fan of their mid-career rhythm guitarist. That might be because I don't really like any of the albums released after the departure of Mick Taylor. I don't know if it's fair to lay the blame at Wood's feet, but by the mid-70's the Stones were headed full-on into their cheesy destiny. perhaps it was just the times.

But anyway I had nothing else that I wanted to do on a gloomy Sunday afternoon and I decided to drive to the Butler Institute of American Art and check out the scene (apparently the very first American exhibition of "the artist's" work). Fortified by talk and good cheer, we arrived a bit dazed by road-head and espresso, linked up with the rest of our party and milled about. It didn't take too long to find the Wood exhibit. There was a sign at the front stairwell directing our way.

To be brutally honest, I like Ronnie Wood's paintings just about as much as I like the Woods-era Stones. He's painted what I suspect he considers iconic images of his bandmates. In one particularly unfortunate work, he's depicted what looks like Mick J. taking Keith from behind while the latter swoons through one of his solos, a goofy ecstatic grin plastered across the lead singer's mug. Other selections contain similar straightforward depictions of former rock-and-roll glory. The ability is there, but there is simply nothing about the work that compels me to stand in front of it for any substantial length of time.

Meanwhile a series of early drawings shows the early promise Wood had as a comics artist before he fell in with the hedonism of England's most famous rockers. If you must go see this show before it's taken down, make it a point to check out the small enclosed glass cases in the side room. Any hints of Wood's creative talents are evident in those pieces. Still, my disinterest in the main act left much time for me to wander through the galleries and check out other stuff.

I've been in a lot of regional art museums, and as far as these go the Butler Institute is solid if not exceptional. There is a nice variety of stuff, representing most of the major movements of 20th Century art. We had a lot of fun checking out the gallery of holograms and other visual trickery, although I wouldn't characterize that work as "great art". Overall this was a worthwhile destination as a day trip from Pittsburgh, but I wouldn't cross the country solely for the likes of what's included at the Butler. However there are plenty of sights of abandonment and degradation in Youngstown, and I'd consider returning to shoot some of that.

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