Picasso, displaced

What would happen if you tried to play one of Picasso’s early guitars? It would fall apart, obviously. Made from cardboard, string and wire, these guitars were experiments in how far Picasso could push sculpture. Like most of his work, the result wavers between genius and absurdity.

• Louise Lawler, Woman with Picasso, 1986
Enamel earrings by Anna Clark
Vintage card file cabinet

Louise Lawler’s photograph Woman with Picasso does not reveal any specifics about who is holding the work and where. Every part of the photograph except the object is out of focus, so that any contextual anchors are denied. The open door in the background and the woman’s dress do not indicate whether the photograph was taken in a private space or an art institution. The lack of focus suggests movement, both in the waving gesture of the woman’s hand and the open door, as though she is about to step through it. The guitar is displaced, suspended between spaces, so that all of its symbolic value is displaced as well. If this guitar doesn’t hang firmly on the wall of a museum, does it cross the line from genius into absurdity?