Matteo Pugliese: The Guardians

August 11, 2018 – January 6, 2019

19 Aztec GuardianThroughout history and across cultures, people have created objects to symbolically protect themselves and their families, their homes, and other meaningful spaces. With this abiding practice in mind, Italian artist Matteo Pugliese created his sculptural series The Guardians. The impetus for this body of work began in the 1990s, when the artist started collecting figural amulets, each of which embodied protection, grace, and determination through various cultural lenses.

Gazing ahead stoically, Pugliese’s guardians have substantial mid-sections, and large, exaggerated feet. They are strong and grounded, centered and calm. The guardians are meticulously adorned with distinctive details, such as hand-carved marble florets, miniscule chainmail, intricate lacing, or painstakingly applied coins. The figures’ distinctive patinas and individual, hand-carved terra cotta faces further speak to the heritage they represent. For instance, the artist employed an earthy, rust patina that recalls the deserts of the western United States for the Native American guardian, and powder white accents reminiscent of snow for the Inuit guardian. At once formidable and familiar, the guardians are poignant symbols of protection.

In a poem he wrote on the series, Pugliese gave voice to the sculptures:

                I am here, I protect you. 

                I guard your walls and the warmth of your home…

                I will stay with you and watch your world take shape in front of you…

                I am here, I protect you.


Organized by the Boise Art Museum


IMAGE: Matteo Pugliese, Aztec Guardian, 2009, bronze and terracotta, 13 x 11.5 x 9 inches, Courtesy of the artist and  Massey Klein gallery.