Posted on 16 March 2015.
After Bernini, Charity, 2013, cardboard, staples, polyurethane, 45 x 32 x 11"
Ad Reinhardt allegedly once said, "Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting." But what happens when the thing on the wall you’ve backed up to look at turns out to be sculpturetoo? In Ann Weber’s current show, her elegantly organic forms have, for the most part, moved from the floor to the walls of the gallery–asserting their equal right to be the focus of attention in a painting-crazy world.
Simultaneously attenuated and bulbous, open and closed, abstract and representational, Weber’s cardboard sculptures radiate a kind of unmitigated joy. When she first started working with this relatively unconventional material (wanting to be able to make pieces that were large, yet lightweight and maneuverable), she used mostly commonplace brown boxes or sheets, fastening strips and struts of corrugated board with thousands of staples. In recent years, she has gradually made a transition to white cardboard, punctuated with accents of black and the random bursts of color conferred by bits of advertising printed on liquor boxes. In this show, however, concentrated swaths of particular hues reveal Weber’s unabashed admiration for Ellsworth Kelly’s spectrum paintings. In After Ellsworth: Purple +, two forms on the left spoon each other in a vaguely topiarized yin/yang, with stripes of violet, white and black crossing and cradling their contours. The two remaining parts of the piece—a basket-woven teardrop shape and a floating sphere—suggest animated punctuation marks. Other homage pieces in yellow, orange and green perform graceful and witty variations on the theme of harmonizing forms, vibrating with color and pattern, defying categorization of any kind.
Personages (Perfect Fit), 2014, found cardboard, staples, polyurethane; L: 75 x 24 x 21" R: 77 x 26 x 23"
Weber’s freestanding works often come in pairs or small groups, implying relationships—whether born of phylum or of affection, we must decide for ourselves. The two works from her ongoing Personages series included here both seem to suggest the existence of psychic as well as physical relationships between the two elements in each piece. The triple curves of Personages (Perfect Fit) — swelling on one form where the other pinches in to a slender stem, their silhouettes matching perfectly—suggest a kind of wistful ideal. If only people, nations or ideologies could fit together as perfectly as these two forms the world would be a different place.
In reproduction, the differences between the freestanding works and the wall reliefs are harder to see. This is particularly true when Weber privileges certain views, as she has in Perfect Fit, where the image captures the magnetic gap between the two standing forms. Overall, pictures tend to flatten the exuberant fullness of Weber’s forms, inspired in part by her visits to Rome in recent years. There, she has been able to study the works of another favorite artist of hers: the great Baroque sculptor Bernini. His extraordinary command of drapery—particularly the way cloth follows the line of movement of the body, taking on a life of its own —has fascinated Weber for years. In After Bernini, Charity, the forms nestle together like pillows of flesh, their surfaces smooth and rough at the same time, lines of staples like tiny silver stitches emphasizing their contours. Bernini’s Charity perhaps a source of inspiration for this piece — features a woman holding a strapping baby boy to her bared breast. Another young child pulls at her as her garments swirl around the three of them. They fit together, like pieces in a puzzle. She looks patient, good-humored, and surprisingly ready to take on the world.
Judging from the strength, imagination and material invention on display in this exhibition, so, too, might Weber.
About the Author:
Maria Porges is an artist and writer who lives and works in Oakland. For over two decades, her critical writing has appeared in many publications, including Artforum, Art in America, Sculpture, American Craft, Glass, the New York Times Book Review and many other publications. The author of more than 85 exhibition catalog essays, she presently serves as an associate professor at California College of the Arts.