Not one to create and contemplate a formal maquette, Weber sets about by translating her ideas directly into form. To create her oversized sculptures, she first constructs a template of a particular shape she’s been pondering—shapes evident in this most recent body of work were inspired by experiences as diverse as a recent tour through Rome to an affinity for a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed indoor parking lot in Racine, Wisconsin. Upon achieving a satisfactory form, the template becomes an armature around which Weber weaves long strips of found cardboard. A battery of staples anchors the cardboard in place while a coating of polyurethane provides additional protection and imparts the material with a rich sheen—a final transmogrification that underscores Weber’s ability to commute nothing into something. Pilfered from a number of different sources, the cardboard Weber uses constitutes a spectrum of browns, bleached whites, vibrant colors, and surfaces bespeckled by fractured text and advertisements. Such tattooed fragments hint at the material’s former life as containers that held wine, yogurt, office supplies, and various other consumer products and that once circulated through an expansive, if international, network of trade.
Often the sculptures are comprised of two or more forms that complement or realize each other’s negative spaces. In the case of You My Butterfly (2012), for instance, two 88-inch tall forms with curved backs face in towards each other to resemble an inverted butterfly. With wings transposed in opposite directions, the harmoniously engaged, almost identical structures form a mirror image of each other. Such allusions to interpersonal relationships, connectivity, and communication are both extensions of and metonyms for the larger human concerns that preoccupy Weber: “My abstract sculptures read as metaphors for life experiences, such as the balancing acts that define our lives. ‘How far can I build this before it collapses?’ is a question on my mind as I work.”
Not only does she push her sculpture’s formal and material possibilities to develop these thematic concerns, but in so doing she also destabilizes the viewers’ expectations regarding the very definition of art. Originally a production potter, Weber is conscious of how the process of weaving cardboard channels the act of coiling clay. The organic forms she creates are thus not only inspired by the life cycle inherent in the creation of a pot—like a seed, a ball of clay can metamorphose into a cylindrical vessel—but they also allow the artist to indirectly assert how craft lies at the heart of fine art. Weber is joined by artists such as Martin Puryear, Judy Pfaff, and Fred Tomaselli who all create art that overtly demonstrates the fundamental relationship uniting these two phenomena. Art world hierarchies are further undermined through Weber’s use of humble, nontraditional materials, a practice that calls forth Eva Hesse’s postminimalist creations as well as the art of Antoni Tàpies and Michelangelo Pistoletto, two members of the Italian Arte Povera movement.
Ann Weber was born in Jackson, Michigan in 1950 and earned her BA in art history from Purdue University in 1972. Ann moved to California to study with Viola Frey at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, earning her MFA in 1987. Since then, Weber has shown at the San Jose Museum of Art; the Oakland Museum of California; The Boise Art Museum in Idaho; and the Evansville Art Museum in Indiana, amongst others. In 2011, the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles presented a solo show of her work titled Love and Other Audacities for which a catalogue was also produced. Her cardboard sculptures have been cast in bronze and fiberglass for public art projects in Phoenix, Denver, and Sacramento.