It's one of the most recognizable items on the planet.
Spanning more than five centuries of design and craftsmanship, a new touring exhibition explores the design and artistry that has played a major role in the guitar’s evolution. “Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of The Guitar” is currently on display at the Vero Beach Art Museum running until May 6.
Organized by The National Guitar Museum, the exhibition features 40 iconic stringed instruments, ranging from an intricately inlaid Moorish oud, a six-foot long Renaissance the orbo, to guitars displaying the modern Italian design of the Eko and one with a stunning transparent acrylic body of California's BC Rich guitars.
Through the years the guitar and its shape have been integral elements for artists such as Vermeer and Picasso, and today they are incorporated into the advertisement of everything from clothes to cars.
“It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by the guitar, whether as players or just fans of all types of music," says HP Newquist, executive director of the National Guitar Museum, who was in Vero for the opening of the exhibition. "It’s a widely held belief that the two most recognizable man-made shapes are those of the Coca-Cola bottle and the electric guitar.”
The exhibition also strikes the chord with the visual legacy of the guitar. Hand-drawn illustrations were created for the exhibition by renowned designer Gerard Huerta. The illustrations show how guitars designed in the 1950s have not changed while other contemporary devices, from automobiles to telephones, are nearly unrecognizable relative to their 1950s counterparts.
Mounted photos of famous players of the past 100 years and the guitars most closely associated with them provide a link to the people who have helped establish the guitar's legacy. The photos were taken by noted concert photographer Neil Zlozower.
Among the guitars featured in the show are:
* The charango have a centuries-old history in Bolivia and Perú. Handmade by a Peruvian musician, the wood used in making this guitar is Baltic pine on the front and cedar for the back.
* Didonato brothers Enrico and Edoardo have taken a deconstructed approach to guitar making in their shop in Venice, Italy. The thickness of the Aluminum body replaces the soundboard on a traditional guitar and the thickness is calculated to enhance certain Tonal characteristics.
* Hagstrom Goya 80 borrowed some design elements from a 1957 Gibson Les Paul as well as incorporating materials from their accordion builds. It's one of the most striking in the show.
* C. F. Martin Guitar Company's D-28 is the Dreadnought by which all others are judged. Constructed of solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce top and mahogany neck, this instrument has been a favorite of artists from Hank Williams Sr. to Jimmy Page. Massive bass response balanced with articulate highs makes this a benchmark acoustic guitar.
So what ushered in the electric guitar? Oddly enough, it was because of demand from Hawaiian lap-steel players. The Rickenbacher Silver Hawaiian Lap Steel is on display.
“From 1915 to World War II, the most popular music in American was music by Hawaiian lap-steel players, who play the guitar in their lap and use a glass or metal slide,” says Newquist. “As they played bigger and bigger venues in the U.S., they couldn’t hear themselves. Electric amplification was driven by Hawaiian music, not by the blues and not by jazz.”
For music lovers of any age “Medieval to Metal" illuminates how guitar makers experimented with diverse shapes, materials and accessories, seeking the perfect blend of beauty and sound.
The National Guitar Museum is the first museum in the United States dedicated to the history, evolution and cultural impact of the guitar. Launched in 2011, its touring exhibitions will be on display in different U. S. cities through 2021 before becoming the basis of The National Guitar Museum in a permanent home. The organization was founded in 2009.
The Vero Beach Art Museum is located at 3001 Riverside Park Drive. For more information call (772)-231-0707 or visit www.verobeachmuseum.org