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Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 Hardcover – 7 Feb 2011
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The 80 or so illustrations consisting of drawings, collages, paintings and constructions together with evocative contemporary photographs of studio assemblages - installation-works in today's parlance - which are fascinating to examine; not every work features a guitar, but all are clearly related to the development process and offer a useful insight into the way artwork evolves.
While I endorse Mr. Palmer's excellent review, I`m inclined to give this volume a five star rating on the basis of the pictorial content, but also on the current availability and price (do shop around, folks), as the Fabre book is rather expensive and doesn't seem likely to come down in price anytime soon.
For me the interest was chiefly the paintings and drawings. I find the particular sculptures around which this book is built clumsy and not very engaging. What little of the text I've read veers towards the stodgier and drier side of writing about art, but I really got this for the pictures. There are more than 70 'colour plates', as they (still) call them, and they are great. The quality of the artwork itself varies, but taken as a whole it's yet further proof of Picasso's incredibly fecund and irrepressible gift for making art. There are some great photos of his studio, showing assemblages and collections of his work in progress, and these also accentuate the richness of his imaginative process, and the prodigious vigour of his work ethic.
As someone who works with both art and music - including both painting and playing the guitar - I particularly liked the idea of a book on Picasso's work focussing on this theme. I must confess that when I bought it I hadn't actually registered that it was constrained to the period 1912-14, and I was a little disappointed, as I'd have liked to have seen more of his artwork from other periods, and seen how his treatment of guitars and music-related imagery changed. A very beautiful book that, like this one, explores a very focused theme, but does have more chronological breadth, is the gorgeous Picasso: Black and White).
The book itself is a medium sized hardback, and rather than having a dust jacket, the colour cover is integral to the binding. The imagery is beautifully reproduced, and that's why I bought it. And I have to say, for a book with such a tight, narrow focus, I've found I can spend hours studying it, and have far from exhausted its potential. With such a specialised focus, both thematically and chronologically, and the slightly dry text, I'm giving this four stars. But the best of the art featured here is five star stuff. Some time after buying this I bought Josep Palau i Fabre's Picasso Cubism, 1907-1917, and I must confess, had I bought that first I might not have bought this, as it contains all the artworks that this contains plus vast amounts more.
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That piece forms the centerpiece of the current wonderful show at the Museum of Modern Art, which focuses on Picasso's Guitars series spanning the years 1912 to 1914. This book, the catalog for the show, starts with a short historical essay on the making and significance of those works, as well as a technical analysis on the various media used by the artist for these "assemblages" (cardboard, metal, but also wood, paintings and drawings).
Then come the colorplates of the 73 works in the exhibition, sometimes accompanied by black-and-white photographs of Picasso's workshop at the time. Those illustrations are good, but in my opinion, the three-dimensional pieces should have been photographed from various angles and there should have been some magnified details of them. For a viewer like myself, who will not be able to see the show in person, I think this is a regrettable lack of documentation. Still, it is an important book on a seldom-studied body of works which are central to XXth-century art.