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Putting Weight on Paper: Web Design School Alum Moves Forward as an Artist

It was during his time as a student in Academy of Art University’s web design school that Wei Wang gained a newfound appreciation for the printed every day material. Short-term in usefulness and commonly discarded as litter, paper items like bus tickets, receipts, stubs, and even torn out pages from a sketchpad are, in truth, little time capsules on their own.

Wang recognized this, which is why for his first exhibit as an artist at the 688 Sutter Gallery in November 2019, it was almost poetic justice for him to pay homage to these paper litters—ephemera—by dedicating six installations to it.

Punch cards and vintage graphics paper were elevated to tokens of memory and identity—tiny proofs of the existence of that moment in the greater fabric of time. With Wang’s exhibit, Time Report: Doc. 1, what used to be short-term in usefulness suddenly had timeless purpose.

“I was really imagining people using these paper goods every day,” he said. “They have to punch in and throw it away weekly or monthly. Just the amount of paper made, the ephemera, how much that takes in a year. I think we should value it more, take advantage and remember it.”

Mixed-Media Installations, Clear Message

To effectively deliver this message through his art, Wang put up several mixed-media installations using prints that have been manipulated and then enlarged. He then sewed them altogether, coming up with what looked almost to be like a giant quilt of printed mementos. Apart from that, he also had more interactive pieces, such as the one where guests were invited to stamp onto three layers of paper using a wooden pole to mark their attendance to the exhibit.

Wei Wang Exhibit - Time Report: Doc. 1
Exhibit guests are invited to “mark” their attendance using this wooden pole. Photo by Bob Toy.

It took Wei Wang several months to complete each section of the installations, a relatively speedy progress considering how he could only work on the exhibit in the after-hours of his curatorial job for the Research Bureau of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

His day job did nothing to dissuade him from pursuing his path as an artist—in fact, it even helped inspire him further.

“My job is such an art-related job and I get to work with designers, artists almost every week; it sort of drove me to want to create more and keep doing my art. If I’m not doing it, it’s such a waste of firsthand inspiration and that’s what helps me to keep going.”

Getting a Good Start as an Artist with the Academy

His classmate Bowei Wang observed, “[Wei] focuses not only on the print of the image, but the printmaking process itself. While we’re printing, we’re not only putting an image onto the paper but actually yourself as well—the labor work is part of the process.”

While many would be quick to overlook this particular facet of the printing process, Wei Wang highlighted it, levelling the actual process with the final product in terms of relevance.

Based on the testimonial of DC Scarpelli, Associate Director for School of Interaction & UI/UX Design, on the artist, this is quintessential of Wang. According to him, Wang was “one of the most deeply thoughtful students I’ve ever had.” He furthered, “When he had a vision, he’d pursue it determinedly and quietly shoot down anything that distracted him from achieving it.”

Wei Wang Exhibit - Time Report: Doc. 1
The artist, Wei Wang.

The respect and admiration runs both ways too, as Wang is not shy in his declaration of admiration for Scarpelli. “He’s such an inspiration. He encouraged me so much about just doing things outside of the ordinary realm. Ike doing prints, do[ing] non-digital works, really doing conceptuals and not just finishing the assignment.”

Beyond Scarpelli, Wang also credits his experience in Academy of Art University to being “a really great starting point” into becoming an artist. Prior to attending the Interaction & UI/UX Design program, he was taking up a double major in finance and international relations from American University in Washington D.C. Art beckoned to him, though, and so he transferred to the San Francisco campus.

As he looks back fondly on the beginning of his journey as an artist, he is more confident now in looking forward to the future of his career.

“I’m going to use this exhibition to submit several grants and artist-in-residency, hopefully. That could be a great starting point for 2020.”

Photos by Bob Toy
Original article by Nina Tabios of AcademyArtUNews,

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