Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Art Strikes a Chord ; the Guitar Steps off the Stage and into the Art Gallery

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Art Strikes a Chord ; the Guitar Steps off the Stage and into the Art Gallery

Article excerpt

What does art look like? Or rather, sound like?

A stunning new exhibition at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts' "Dangerous Curves: Art of the Guitar" answers both questions with ringing clarity. It is the first comprehensive museum exhibition ever to celebrate the design of a single musical instrument.

The 129-instrument collection was artfully assembled from the personal collections of musicians, collectors, and institutions like the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Musee de la Musique in Paris. It features ancient and modern instruments from lutes, lyres, and guitar/harps hand-crafted for emperors and princesses, to a contemporary banana-yellow funk machine for the artist once again known as Prince. It is an eye- and -ear-opening display.

"Dangerous Curves" traces the history of this popular and portable instrument from the earliest examples in the 17th century to the digital sampling guitars of today.

Darcy Kuronen, the show's curator explains, "By highlighting the remarkable artistry and variety that characterizes the guitar, 'Dangerous Curves' explores the relationship between art, music, and popular culture." Actually, it's better than that. These "axes" are way cool.

The wondrous baroque-era creations (1590-1880) more than hold their own against the more-familiar architecture and furniture design of the time, with their impossibly delicate details and inlays of abalone shell, mother of pearl, and ebony. One guitar depicts scenes of greek mythology, another (from 1840) commemorates the return of Napoleon's ashes to Paris.

Multilayered rosettes of lace-fine wood carving are suspended in the instruments' sound holes, celebrating not only the expert luthiers' art of the time, but also functioning as finely tuned sound chambers, projecting the sweet bell-tones of the strings. …

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