Expressive Portraits Emerge from Pieces of Cardboard in Josh Gluckstein’s Wildlife Sculptures
Since childhood, London-based artist Josh Gluckstein has been fascinated by the incredible diversity of our planet’s wildlife and inspired to make sculptures of animals from found materials. He often uses discarded or recycled materials like clothing from thrift shops or wood from old furniture, and an important aspect of his practice is concern for the environment. “I have travelled through Asia, Latin America, and East Africa, and have been fortunate enough to have some incredible wildlife encounters,” he says. “However, on my travels, even in the most remote locations, I was shocked by the huge amounts of plastic waste.”
Much of the garbage that washes up on shorelines around the world is due to an unregulated system in which richer countries export waste to developing countries because it is often cheaper than developing better infrastructures to handle it. Many of the thousands of shipping containers exported each year are often dumped illegally. Gluckstein shares:
I remember going to the Galapagos Islands and visiting a beach famous for a large population of sea lions. It was indeed incredible to see them in the wild, but on every inch of sand not covered by sea lions, there were plastic bottles and cans. It was a heartbreaking sight. I knew I wanted to create artwork that didn’t create waste and harm our planet.
Gluckstein fashions life-like portraits of elephants, primates, pangolins, and big cats out of cardboard by tearing, cutting, and gluing pieces together into expressive visages, sometimes applying thin washes of paint for added depth and detail. He often works on multiple sculptures at a time, and a piece can take between a week or several months to complete depending on the scale or amount of detail. “In lockdown, at home and out of my studio, I was very keen to get to work, but didn’t have the access to the materials I would usually use,” he says. “That’s when I discovered cardboard, which was readily available, and I found it to be an incredibly versatile medium.”
A new series called Gold focuses on trafficked animals by applying gold leaf to their bodies, highlighting the reasons they are poached. The pangolin, for example, is critically endangered because it’s illegally hunted primarily for its meat and unique scales. Gluckstein plans to show these works next month at Woolff Gallery in London, with a portion of sales donated to the WWF. Follow updates on Instagram, and see more of the artist’s work on his website.
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Daniel Agdag’s Playful Rollercoaster Takes a Miniature Approach to Monumental Amusement
Although riders aren’t able to board Daniel Agdag’s rollercoaster, the Australian artist (previously) ensures that his recreational design is structurally sound. Agdag recently completed his largest project to date, a nearly ten-foot big dipper with an elaborately cross-hatched base that mimics the rides. Created during a two-year period, “Lattice” is a miniature rendition of the monumental pastime, built from vellum and “897,560 individual hand-cut cardboard members in the truss section alone,” a component that took about eight months to complete.
The intricate sculpture—which was a commission from the New York City Department of Education and NYC School Construction Authority Public Art for Public Schools in collaboration with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program—references Luna Park, a now-defunct chain that began in Coney Island before expanding to locations worldwide. “In fact, the Melbourne Luna Park still has one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the world, and this work was very much inspired by a wooden rollercoaster. I thought that was a nice way to link the work’s origin and its destination,” Agdag shares, noting that the “House of Mirrors” section is an ode to the Peter Wiederer Mirror Company that originally occupied the Staten Island site.
Now permanently housed at the Evelyn Lewis Campus—given its location on school property, there’s no public access to view the work—”Lattice” engages with the metaphor of life as a rollercoaster, perpetually moving forward through a series of twists, turns, dips, and peaks. “But this is but one metaphor,” Agdag tells Colossal, explaining that the piece also references a collective spirit. He says:
To me, the representation speaks of systems hidden within the amusement, a considered structure. Constructed of many individual stems and beams, I interpret it as the many people that need to contribute to making society not only function but thrive. The individual structural elements laced together to form a beautiful lattice of strength. Independently they carry little weight, but together they are strengthened and resilient against the forces that try to tear them down.
Agdag shares glimpses into his process and studio on Instagram, where you can follow along with his latest projects.
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Ann Weber Elevates Discarded Cardboard Boxes and Staples to New Heights in Billowing Sculptures
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 structurally sound and visually appealing functional objects. 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.”
Weber recently wrapped up a major exhibition at Wönzimer Gallery in Los Angeles. Explore more of her work on Instagram and her website.
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Imposing Wild Animals Emerge from Layers of Cardboard in Scott Fife’s Sculptures
Armed with glue and screws, artist Scott Fife fashions large-scale creatures from a humble material in an exploration of the relationship between humans and our animal counterparts, particularly those we associate with myth and folklore. The beastly creations emerge in his aptly named solo show Cardboard Kingdom, which is on view now at Traver Gallery in Seattle.
Comprised of fringed layers and patchwork, the animals are wild and expressive, with drowsy, drooping eyes or snarling teeth. Many bear the markings of human touch, with drips of ink and pencil drawings on their faces and bodies. “Physically beautiful, we endear these animals with many meanings. But they are predators and prey in a brutal world. These are portraits of individuals as they are in nature,” he shares.
Cardboard Kingdom is on view through December 22, and you can find more of Fife’s sculptures on his site.
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A Cast of Articulate Cardboard Robots Populate a Growing Sci-Fi Universe Crafted by Greg Olijnyk
Melbourne-based artist Greg Olijnyk continues to add to his troupe of sci-fi robots crafted from cardboard, LED lights, and glass details. The elaborately constructed characters are fully articulate and populate an ever-expanding futuristic world that’s slightly dystopic and always filled with adventure. His latest creations also include a nod to art history, with a sculptural interpretation of M.C. Escher’s stairs that features tiny robots within the mind-bending cube.
For a glimpse into Olijnyk’s process and to keep up with his works steeped in fantasy, head to Instagram.
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The Cardboard Sculptures of Artist Warren King Are an Homage to His Chinese Heritage
Artist Warren King (previously) finds much of his inspiration by wandering through Chinatown in New York City, where he encounters “street musicians, chess players in Columbus Park, vegetable sellers, knockoff handbag vendors on Canal Street, lion dancers during Chinese New Year celebrations,” he tells Colossal. “I’ve been fascinated during my weekly grocery shopping trips by the vibrant, diverse community there, which is so different from the relatively homogenous suburbs where I grew up.”
These passersby become the initial inspiration for the artist’s figurative cardboard sculptures, which consider his Chinese heritage, his parent’s immigration, and what it means to hold a diasporic identity. Ribbed with subtle corrugation and coated in dark neutral tones, the works vary in scale, although many are life-sized and large enough to occupy public benches and galleries. Each piece is an homage both to those he observes and to the richness of the Chinese community.
In addition to his ongoing Chinatown series, King’s recent works also include a few pieces of more personal relevance, including “Xuanzang.” The stoic character is based on the 7th Century monk by the same name who trekked 10,000 miles into India to recover Buddhist texts and inspired the classic novel, Journey to the West. “I used to be an avid backpacker and made a few life-defining treks myself,” the artist shares. “And I’m a book nerd too, so Xuanzang is naturally kind of an idol for me.”
The elaborately armored piece titled “The Wu Dan Answers the Call” similarly contextualizes King’s background within a broader history. “I wanted to tell the story of my feisty grandmother, who as a young woman tried to enlist in the bloody fight against the Japanese. But the piece is a mashup of a character from Chinese opera and Donatello’s famous sculpture of David, which reflects the two lenses through which I view the story,” he says.
King is currently working on an installation centered on the idea of preserving narratives and family legacies. That work is slated for February 2023 at Pearl River Mart in Soho, and you can follow its progress on Instagram.
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