This weekend I went to go see Picasso’s Guitars at the Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibit was set up on the second floor in an open exhibition hall – designed to echo the open format of Picasso’s studio. The effect was somewhat dampened by the hoards of people huddled around each work – but with some imagination you could visualize Picasso’s storied workspace.

As the name suggests, the exhibit focuses on Picasso’s fascination with abstract guitar images. The center piece of the exhibit is a multidimensional cardboard sculpture that evokes the essence of a guitar with only a few truly recognizable guitar components. In addition to the cardboard model, there are several other very famous Picasso works that I’ve seen images of in catalogs and magazines. I enjoyed seeing the well known images in person, but they were not my favorite part of the exhibit. What I enjoyed most, were the more informal works – black lines scrawled on the backs of antique french newspapers. These colorless contour sketches, which were mostly bunched toward the corner of the hall, were not signed by Picasso (like many of the other works) and even looked out of place in the decadent gilded frames that housed each piece. Looking at them, you had to wonder if Picasso intended for these works to be framed – or even if these works were designed to be seen by anyone outside his studio.

As one of the pioneers of the cubist movement, Picasso is famous for thinking about our world in a different way. But thinking differently doesn’t come about all at once – it happens in tiny steps. You start with something familiar – something you know, like a guitar. Then you experiment, one sketch at a time until you end up with something different and revolutionary.

We would all be better off if we spent a little more time experimenting and playing around. If we experiment enough – maybe someday someone will want to frame our newspaper sketches.

Experimentation
  • I’m actually not a fan of “revolutionary” ideas. I think that the best progressions are strictly evolutionary; they expand what has been successful, and discard what was unnecessary.

    Being “revolutionary” has a certain idealistic appeal, but I think it’s mostly responsible for failures.

    But yes, experimentation is important! Otherwise you can’t identify what is important, useless, etc.

  • Andrew

    Thanks, as always, for the comment.

    I definitely agree with revolutionary ideas being over rated. In some ways their the ultimate case of cognitive bias through availability heuristic. Just because you can easily think of a handful of revolutionary ideas that have spawned successful businesses doesn’t mean those types of stories occur with a high level of frequency. In fact – for each revolutionary idea and successful business there could be hundreds that have set out with identical intentions and failed.