by Silke Tudor
Being home to the Cardboard Institute of Technology and a chapter of the Cardboard Tube Fighting League, San Francisco is no stranger to the beauty and versatility of pre-cycled paper products, but Venezuelan-born Cristóbal Valecillos really takes cardboard to a whole new level. During his last exhibit, the photographer, best known for video work with pop stars like Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Madonna, set out to "satirize" a wealthy American family by dressing up models in gorgeous paper clothes inside an elegant cardboard room. The result was more high fashion than high art, but there was no denying the talent behind the camera (or the loveliness of that bolero jacket made from recycled Starbucks coffee sleeves).
The highlight was the actual cardboard room, complete with ornate paper rugs, a corrugated fireplace, and fiberboard taxidermy hanging on the walls. For his new show, "American Life," Valecillos once again creates a full-scale cardboard abode, albeit more humble. An attractive multi-ethnic cast represents Valecillos' real America: A petulant teen slouches near a mailbox in the hall under the watchful gaze of a cardboard security camera; two young girls try to repair their bike on the sidewalk. While still as posed as a perfume ad, these urban street scenes turn the cardboard into a provocative visual element, rather than the whole subject of the show.
"American Life" opens March 29 at 6 p.m. and continues through April 27 at the McLoughlin Gallery, 49 Geary St., Suite 200, S.F. Admission is free; call 986-4799 or visit mgart.com.