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.”
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Elaborate Towers Emerge from Basic Building Blocks in Raffaele Salvoldi’s Architectonic Installations
In January 2021 in the middle of Italy’s second Covid-19 lockdown, photographer and director Raffaele Salvoldi’s work took a different turn. “That was a tough time since I wasn’t working and had a lot of free time. So, I started to build small forms to keep my hands and mind busy,” he tells Colossal, sharing that he tapped into the nostalgic, childhood activity of tinkering and stacking simple wood blocks.
At the base of Salvoldi’s towering, temporary installations is a single component: KAPLA planks. Devised by a Dutch antique dealer in the late 1960s, KAPLA are an alternative to chunkier blocks that make it easier to build long or horizontal features like lintels and roofs. Initially, Salvoldi started with a set of 1,000 of the wooden construction bricks, and as he amassed thousands more, his constructions became increasingly voluminous. Spiraling columns, delicate towers, and airy apertures emerge gradually from a foundation on the floor, and the structures are often illuminated from inside and reveal dramatic effects in cavernous spaces. Each piece responds to its environment, drawing the eye upward to unique settings like the historic, neoclassical Casa Bossi. “The only limit is your imagination and, of course, gravity,” he says.
One of Salvoldi’s installations can take between three weeks and four months to complete, and rather than opening a show with a completed work, viewers are invited to observe as he adds piece after piece over time. “I believe it isn’t just a performance, rather a kind of a window on an artistic process,” he says. “That’s why I like to define it as a living, mobile room or atelier that people can visit and see the installation growing day after day, week after week.” When a show closes and the work must be disassembled, visitors are invited to deconstruct the installation by throwing additional planks at it until it crumbles, or the artist will devise a domino-like path of KAPLA that strikes at the foundations.
In May 2022, Salvoldi founded the project Wood Arc through which he continues his research into architectural and structural forms. Between February 12 and April 2, he will exhibit a new work at the 16th-century Villa Bono, just north of Novara, Italy. Find videos and more of his work on Instagram, and learn more about the project on his website.
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“The first one I made, I made by accident, like a three-dimensional doodle,” says Melbourne-based architect and artist Jan van Schaik about the sculpture that founded his Lost Tablets series. Now encompassing 89 works, the ongoing project continues to reflect this intuitive, imaginative impulse as it scales principles of monumental design into dozens of models that stand about ten inches tall.
Built with secondhand LEGO, each monochromatic construction encapsulates questions of legacy and decay. Remnants like writing, dirt, and divots imprinted in the plastic bricks from rough play are visible in van Schaik’s sculptures, which recreate aspects of “the city caves of Matera, the churches of Borromini, the arches of the Doge’s palace in Venice, the buttresses of Gothic cathedrals, and the blue ceilings of the Shah Mosque of Isfahan” as deteriorating structures. Varied in style and aesthetic, the walls contain gaping, window-like arcs, exposed mechanical gadgets, and uneven bricks that appear on the verge of collapse. Each is named after a ghost ship, or a vessel found at sea with no crew members on board, imbuing the pieces with a sense of mystery about their origins and existence.
A third-generation architect, van Schaik has long been interested in “the ways that cities recombine themselves” and how new constructions often reuse materials, objects, and foundations and embed local history within the contemporary landscape. “Cities are always building themselves on top of themselves,” he tells Colossal, referencing the ancient walls of the acropolis of Athens as an early example. His use of LEGO mimics this tradition and captures the universality of the material and subject matter. “Architecture is for everybody, and everybody is aware of it, whether they intend to be or not, whether they’re conscious of it or not,” the artist shares. “That’s why (the works) have a strange familiarity.”
This year, van Schaik plans to complete the Lost Tablets series, which will total 100 constructions, and publish another book to explore the latter half of the collection. You can see the pieces on view at two spaces in the state of Victoria, Boom Gallery in Newtown and NAP in Mildura, this spring and at The Other Art Fair in Melbourne in March. Until then, find more on the Lost Tablets site and Instagram. (via Yatzer)
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First documented in China in 2,500 B.C., the earliest evidence of the cultivation of rice has been found in archaeological sites dating back more than 5,000 years earlier. A versatile crop that can grow in numerous climates, the plentiful grain plays an integral role in cuisine and folkloric traditions and underpins artist Hayoon Jay Lee’s intricate wall reliefs.
Born in Daegu, South Korea, and currently based in New York City, Lee is interested in what she describes in a statement as the “fundamental tension between indulgence and abnegation”—the act of renouncing or rejecting something—in individual, social, and political dynamics. Contrasting ideas of attraction and repulsion, conflict and harmony, privilege and poverty, or East and West provide the groundwork for abstract compositions made by precisely placing thousands of grains into rippling patterns. The surfaces reference topographical overviews, shifting landmasses, swirling motion, and ruptures.
Across Asia, rice is grown primarily by small-scale producers. However, food-chain inequalities and critical impacts from climate change place farming systems, jobs, and food security on increasingly precarious footing. For Lee, rice is utilized “as object, motif, and metaphor: as the building block for civilizations and also as the basis for social inequities,” she explains.
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Mossy Figures Wander Through Woodlands and City Streets in Kim Simonsson’s Flocked Ceramic Sculptures
Some of the most exciting artistic discoveries are the results of accidents or the surprising outcomes of experiments, and artist Kim Simonsson’s series Moss People is the result of one such unexpected twist. Coated with soft flocking—a process of applying very fine fiber to the surface of an object—the large-scale ceramic sculptures were initially layered only with velvety black until a few years ago, when one day, the Finnish sculptor decided to flock one of those pieces with yellow, too. Once the crushed nylon fiber was applied over the black, it turned green, and the verdant figures have since grown into a cornerstone of his practice.
Simonsson draws inspiration from pop culture and Nordic fairytales and folklore, creating expressive, youthful characters who tote rucksacks, wear feathers in their hair, or carry important items like books, radios, or plush toys. For the 2022 Utopia Festival in Lille, France, he created monumental versions from fiberglass that lined a thoroughfare and appeared to wander amongst the passersby, emphasizing tender facial expressions, theatrical scale, and the sense that each individual is on a mission. The artist taps into a playful tension between the spritely energy of youth and the fact that moss naturally grows on hard, unmoving surfaces.
Atmospheric images taken outdoors capture the self-assured figures as they wander through woodland, equipped for an expedition. The most recent characters feature edible greenery and cabbage that grows from their limbs, torsos, and feet, providing both protection and sustenance. By producing and carrying their own food, they are completely autonomous, self-sustaining beings.
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In Courtney Mattison’s elaborate ceramic wall reliefs, the rich textures and hues of coral sweep elegantly across vast surfaces. Made of numerous individual pieces that she forms by hand, each composition references the fragility, diversity, and resilience of marine ecosystems, which she describes as an effort to “visualize climate change.” Currently on display at the Brandywine Museum of Art, “Gyre I” draws inspiration from forces of nature exemplified in the immense power of hurricanes and the delicate spirals of seashells or flower petals.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
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