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Video transcript

(lively music) Sal: What are we looking at here? Steven: This is a sculpture by Pablo Picasso. It dates to 1912, called Guitar, made out of sheet metal that Picasso cut and crimped and folded. Sal: This one is awesome. It's just a fascinating thing to look at. It's something that ... I mean, a guitar is never a mundane thing. That's what's fun about it. If you put a guitar on your wall, it inspires you. I like to leave my guitar in the corner of my room. It makes me always want to be more creative. This takes it to another level. It takes this idea of a guitar, and it's very recognizable as a guitar. I mean, it really plays with the geometry of the guitar. The things that you think would pop out are popping in, and things that are popping in are popping out. But still, fundamentally it has the idea of its guitarness: the strings don't cross, where you ... I mean, it's definitely not a functional guitar, but it definitely conveys what a guitar is. So, at least aesthetically, I get this. Steven: I think Picasso is applauding your interpretation. When you think about sculpture, what comes to mind? What kinds of subjects have you seen in sculpture? Sal: More classical sculpture, which is the Venus de Milo, and then you have the more geometric types of sculptures. Steven: More modern scupltures; absolutely. Now, this is something that was made in 1912. When it was made, I think that that more classical kind of sculpture that you were referring to is really what there was. They were sculptures of the human body. Occasionally, there might be a piece of armor, there might be some drapery that was sculpted, there might be a horse, but sculpture was always about something that existed in nature, something that was not man-made. Nobody had made a sculpture of a guitar because we make guitars. Sal: Right. Steven: Picasso could become a luthier. He could just make a guitar. Sal: No; I fully appreciate that. I think that this is challenging people's notion of art. As you just pointed out, that seems counterintuitive to make a representation of something that we already make, and we can make it very well and represent it perfectly. Here is intentionally representing the essence of the thing without making the thing. Steven: How can he create a visual vocabulary that represents the thing while not in any way constructing that thing? He has to be really deliberate. He has to make sure that that finger board can't actually work, otherwise he's making a finger board. He's not making a sculpture. Sal: No, you're exactly right. You can probably remove several of the guitar-like cues and it would still very clearly be a guitar. But I definitely appreciate this. I definitely, I think, get this. Steven: Think about what's happening at this moment, his understanding of art making his coming out of the 19th Century, when photography had really released artists from the responsibility of having to depict. Now, if art is moved to the sort of second level, which is let's focus on the language of depiction as opposed to depiction itself. Take a look at one of the things that makes it most clear that this is a guitar. Look at the contours of the body of the guitar. That S-curve on both sides. Do you notice how they're not the same scale? Sal: Absolutely; yeah. Steven: Picasso does this kind of thing in a lot of drawings at this time, late 1911-1912. Because the right side is smaller, a lot of historians suggested that Picasso is actually representing a guitar not flat against the wall, but actually turned slightly in space. Sal: Yeah, I definitely see that. We're looking at all angles of the guitar at once. Steven: This scuplture is actually coming out of the series of collages that Picasso has been making. It's this funny thing where you have the idea of the guitar, a three-dimensional, real thing in the world, which then he collapses into the realm of drawing that represent the thing in space. Then, he literally cuts those things out and reconstructs this in three dimensions. In fact, the very first version was made out of paper, from the three-dimensional to the two-dimensional and then back to the three-dimensional. Sal: I think it's fascinating. (lively music)