Richard Serra

William Rubin (right) preparing “Cézanne: The Late Work,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1977. Photo: D. Gordon/The New York Times.

WE HAVE ALL HEARD the often-told anecdote of how Bill Rubin was able to secure from Picasso the gift of the artist’s 1912–14 sheet-metal Guitar for the Museum of Modern Art in 1971. In his memoir, Rubin describes the work as “the first of a new race of constructed—as opposed to carved or modeled—sculptures” and as “an object more radical and influential in the history of sculpture than was Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in the history of painting.” As a sculptor, you gotta like this guy.

When I think of Picasso, I think of him as a relative of sorts, as someone who is part of my mental family. I don’t want to imply that he was a mere Freudian figure when he was alive; rather, he was another artist with whom I had an on-and-off imaginary dialogue over the years. What does this self-conscious admission have to do with Bill Rubin? He was the associative link. I could not think of Bill

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