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"Primero la Caja": Pablo Guardiola 

Wednesday, Dec 16 2009

The title of Pablo Guardiola's solo show translates to "First the Box," a richly ambiguous phrase that echoes the artist's grand talent for allegory. Guardiola, who was born in Puerto Rico and graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2005, manages to turn ordinary objects into reverberating symbols in his photographs. A mass-produced toy ball painted like a globe might be perfectly humdrum, were it not for the fact that the "China" sticker (as in "Made in") appears to be stuck on the African continent. By framing this detail, Guardiola charges the frame with political possibility. In another photo, a rusty loudspeaker rests half-buried in gravel behind a chain-link fence. Does the image represent freedom from tyranny, or the loss of speech? Guardiola's sculptural objects, which tread the same symbolic turf, tend to be less successful; his wit lives best within the frame of a photograph, constrained and haikulike.

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Traci Vogel


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