Boise Art Museum: Guardians of the Gallery 

Matteo Pugliese, Chinese Guardian, 2011, bronze, 12.5 by 9 by 9 inches.

Courtesy Matteo Pugliese and Massey Klein Gallery

Matteo Pugliese, Chinese Guardian, 2011, bronze, 12.5 by 9 by 9 inches.

The image of a guardian angel as a harp-playing protector is a familiar one in American books and movies, but not every culture imagines a haloed presence with feathery wings when the concept comes up. The stone, metal and terracotta sculptures in Italian artist Matteo Pugliese's series The Guardians, soon to be on display at Boise Art Museum, give form to an entirely different kind of protector: hefty men in full battle dress, rooted to the ground with sturdy feet and bearing expressions stony enough stave off any threat.

"As humans, we have an instinctive desire for security," wrote BAM Executive Director Melanie Fales in an email. "Throughout history, we have built up our defenses, created strongholds for our territories, and created ways to shield ourselves and our homes from harm ... Matteo Pugliese addresses this innate need across time and civilizations."

The exhibition at BAM, which kicks off with an opening party on Thursday, Aug. 9, and will run through Jan. 6, 2019, will be Pugliese's first museum showing in the United States. A total of 19 sculptures, 18 small and one larger-than-life, will make their way from Pugliese's New York and Italian galleries, respectively, for the exhibition. A video showing Pugliese at work in his studio in Milan—subtitled in English—will accompany the artwork, and a catalog of the sculptures will be for sale in the BAM gift shop.

Scrolling through Pugliese's website reveals each sculpture is intricately carved and adorned: from the Balinese guardian chiseled from Velluto marble, with its ruddy face and dragon-head breastplate; to the bronze samurai with his peaked hat and scale armor. Though making arrangements for the exhibition took two years, Fales said it may pay big community dividends.

"By showing this series together, I believe that we are helping to nurture that space within ourselves that appreciates the similarities among people across cultures, transcending political boundaries and differences, and building tolerance for one another, which makes our world a better place," she wrote. "At the Boise Art Museum, I hope everyone who views The Guardians will experience a safe space to learn about and explore these fascinating works of art."
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