Ann Weber has been experimenting with this unusual material since 1991, creating complex, monumental shapes that often refer to the figure in a way that she describes as neither entirely representational nor abstract, but something in between—allowing viewers to bring their own associations to the work. Originally trained in ceramics (she studied with Viola Frey at California College of the Arts), she turned to cardboard out of a desire to be able to make pieces that were monumental, yet lightweight and maneuverable.

Whether pieces are freestanding or wall-hung, Weber uses essentially the same method to build each one, beginning with a flat drawn shape. Once cut out, this silhouette becomes the surface on which she builds a cardboard armature-—either on one side, or both—that is then covered with a stapled skin of narrow strips, cut from salvaged boxes. The patterns created by the overlapping strips simultaneously suggest the intricate surface of traditional woven baskets and a minimalist grid pattern, wrapped around the sculpture’s lively shapes.

The cardboard that remains after a shape has been cut and removed from a sheet—what Weber describes as “negative space”—becomes the adjacent profile of the next sculpture she makes. This part of her process is clearly visible when the two are viewed together, their curves and angles fitting each other like a couple in love, or two parts of a puzzle. For Weber, the relationships represented in this way are both literal and metaphorical: an invocation of the connectedness of everything, whether animate or inanimate.

Weber asserts that she is deeply influenced by her environment: whether that is the buildings and sculptures of Rome, where she was a visiting artist at the American Academy in 2018, 2014 and 2012, or the natural architecture of Hawaii, where she had a residency at the Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture in 2016. It’s not surprising that the distinctive shapes of the largest multi-part piece in the show, also titled Happiest Days of Our Lives, are inspired in part by the visual landscape of San Pedro, the community located at the southern tip of Los Angeles where Weber now lives and works. Walking around town, she noticed the local graffiti style in murals painted on the sides of bodegas and stores: a graceful, lively combination of pointed Gothic lettering and sinuous curves. Gothic on Grand also reflects her interpretation of this unique local style, in eight free-standing elements covered in jazzy combinations of black and white stripes punctuated with yellow and red. Considered as four interlocking pairs, their matched silhouettes suggest the possibility of psychic as well as physical relationships. The multiple tooth-like protrusions that link the two parts of one of these pairs, Hey You, create a zigzag of negative space between them that suggests the switchbacks of a mountain road.

Ann Weber was born in 1950 in Jackson, Michigan, and earned her BA in art history from Purdue University in 1972. After living in New York, Weber moved to California to pursue her MFA at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, where she studied with Viola Frey. The 2018 recipient of a Pollock Krasner Award, she has held residencies at the Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture, Hawaii; the American Academy in Rome; the International School of Beijing; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, and the Lux Art Institute near San Diego, among others. Institutional venues for Weber’s solo shows have included the Long Beach Museum of Art; the Evansville Museum, Indiana; the Boise Art Museum, Idaho; and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Her cardboard sculptures have been cast in bronze and fiberglass for public art projects in Phoenix, Denver, and Sacramento. This is her third exhibition with Dolby Chadwick Gallery.