Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914

Article excerpt

Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914

MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK

February 13-June 6

Curated by Anne Umland

OF ALL THE AMAZING FEATS of William Rubin's curatorial career at MOMA--his exhibitions, his acquisitions, his global associations--the one or which he was proudest was his ability to persuade Picasso to part with Guitar, 1914, the earliest of the artist's sheet-metal-constructed sculptures, which Picasso gave as a gift to the museum along with what was then understood to be its maquette, the cardboard Guitar from 1912. The guitars presage the revolution in sculptural practice that would take place over the course of the century, as carving, modeling, and casting were abandoned in favor of the "drawing in space" that would open onto welding and stacking.

In Picasso's oeuvre, his emotional associations with the flamenco-tinged object gave guitars a kind of leverage within his own formal thought. The work not only figures in the first collages, thereby marking his departure from Analytic Cubism, but was also the vehicle, within the collages, for the surfacing of an abstract constellation, marking the artist's departure from representation. A recently rediscovered component of the cardboard work--a semicircular "tabletop" that had been languishing in storage--is the lodestone, suggesting potential new readings of both objects. Notably, Picasso's first collage, Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912, is staged as a tabletop with a carved molding encircling it, situating the work within a kind of spatial rotation from framed vertical painting to horizontal, opaque surface.

This exhibition, which promises to be magnificent, could be considered an homage not only to Picasso but to Rubin as well. In her approach to the project, MOMA curator Anne Umland follows Rubin's own archaeological method, pursuing whatever scanty cues are available to reconstruct Picasso's formal development. …