Shotgun Review

Primero La Caja

By December 16, 2009

Thumbnail: Untitled, 2009; digital C-print, ed. 1/5; 20 x 30 in. Courtesy of Galería de la Raza, San Francisco.

In “Primero la Caja,” Pablo Guardiola presents a single installation comprised of 17 photographs and a series of sculptures and objects. Its cornerstone is a quote by Fernando Pessoa: “There is no synthesis where there isn’t a criteria for synthesis; for the same reason that you cannot put things in a box if there is no box.”

This text serves two functions: it indicates one of Guardiola’s thematic foils—the box—and brings our attention to the paradoxical relationship between delimiting surfaces and their previously unbounded contents, thereby bringing interpretation into question. How does one synthesize an exhibition? How is an artwork’s container and that which it contains synthesized?

Guardiola’s flawless still-life photographs depict glass bottles and other mundane objects. A photograph of blank signs underscores an authorial reticence. The artist places three boxes—composed of painted cardboard, sheet glass or photos of newspapers—throughout the main gallery.

Printed vinyl forms a convincing trompe l’œil of silhouettes on backlit sheets of paper. The rear gallery, lined with coarse plywood, houses an informal display of found objects. It seems disparate, but mimicry, mirroring, and recurrence intimate coherence.

Untitled, 2009; Digital C-print, ed. 1/5, 20x 30 in. Courtesy of Galería de la Raza, San Francisco.

“Primero la Caja,” 2009; installation view, Galería de la Raza, San Francisco.

Guardiola crafts a twofold engagement that parallels the container metaphor: the visual experience of surfaces and forms, and the cognitive attempt to unearth the contained (narrative, the signified, or simply, cohesion). By leaving the identities of art, materials and referents indeterminate, Guardiola demonstrates his interest is in the cognitive processes by which we make sense of such images and objects.

For additional reading on the role of metaphors, please refer to Johnson, Mark and George Lakoff. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press (1978).

“Primero la Caja” is on view at Galería de la Raza in San Francisco through December 31, 2009.

Christine Wong Yap is an Oakland-based artist whose installations, sculptures, multiples and works on paper have been exhibited widely in the San Francisco Bay Areaand in New York, Los Angeles, Manila, and the U.K. She holds a BFA and MFA from the California College of the Arts.


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