Ann Weber Elevates Discarded Cardboard Boxes and Staples to New Heights in Billowing Sculptures
“You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows” (2020), cardboard, staples, and polyurethane, 101 x 44 x 20 inches. Photo by Ray Carofano
Exemplifying the possibilities of combining humble materials with a good dose of resourcefulness, Ann Weber’s monumental sculptures find their beginnings in discarded cardboard boxes. The San Pedro, California-based artist parlayed her training in ceramics into a focus on the everyday material, initially inspired by architect Frank Gehry’s cardboard chairs, which transformed utilitarian, heavyweight paper into a structurally sound and visually appealing functional object. Weber echoed a similar intention when she decided to eliminate the inherently cumbersome process and weight of clay in exchange for a lightweight material that could be scaled up.
The artist scours the neighborhoods of Los Angeles for boxes, paying special attention to those with printed surfaces; she carefully considers the colors of graphics and text and incorporates them into the overall composition of each work. In the studio, she begins by building an armature with larger pieces of cardboard to create the silhouette. She then applies layers of strips cut from other boxes and staples them into place in a repetitive, textured pattern.
While the forms billow, bulge, and tower overhead, the artist doesn’t want to obscure the ubiquitous material; instead, Weber invites the viewer to consider the substance in a way they might not otherwise, saying “cardboard has taken on more complex meaning in the 21st century with the hyper-capitalistic proliferation of excess shipping materials.” Paper accounts for more than a quarter of the waste in landfills globally. “The sculptures can be viewed as a critique of contemporary consumerist culture, but that is not my sole intent,” she continues. “They are instilled with a psychological component neither entirely representational nor abstract, but something in between.”