Dangerous Curves: Politics and Poetry in the Work of Blaise Tobia
by Joseph F. Gregory © 2003


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__But the ideas exposed by analytical thought in this ensemble are not the only nor even the primary fruit of the experience that it offers; the pairs of images that comprise the series, though they require rational interpretation, are not merely the instruments of a high order, logical reasoning, a science. For the reciprocal analysis of the cultural involvements of the scenes and objects presented requires the viewer to think analogically, to conjoin seemingly unrelated or superficially related entities in terms of ideas, concerns, and values uncovered by analysis. The web of conjunctive relations which results from this procedure metaphorically maps the being of one entity upon the other, blurring the logical, commonsense boundaries between things, and this, in turn, liberates an intuition of the creative, cultural determination of reality itself. We are given as viewers, in other words, to think as artists and poets, to think at the fuzzy level of creative imagination where metaphor and simile first cast their round nets onto the placid surface of the commonplace, exchanging clarity, certainty and utility for resonance, wonder, and plenitude of thought.

__This structural logic belongs to all of Tobia's pairings in his Signs and Wonders series. When he aligns an image of a window from Brooklyn pragmatically walled off on the inside by unadorned concrete blocks with one from Paris artfully screened with flourishing plants, or when he combines an image of parking practices in Bern, Switzerland with those found in Rome, he invites the viewer to map a potentially vast array of attitudes, concerns, and values from two different cultures upon one another. But whatever specific similarities and differences might emerge as a result of such comparative analysis, it is ultimately the revelation of the unifying category of culture itself, the category under which the objects depicted can be said to be analogous to one another (i.e., as cultural objects) and therefore meaningfully different, that emerges as the most compelling, poetic aspect of these works. For to see the commonplace elements of our experience as manifestations of arbitrary cultural determinations, as matter shaped by collectively embraced assumptions, ideas, concerns, and values, is to leaven consciousness with a sense of the poetical, with a feeling for the boundless plasticity of the world of human experience.


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