Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Art of Can: Reusing Tin Cans as Art

It was in the early 1960's, long before "recycling" and "reusing" became fashionable, when David Wasserman began digging trash cans in Eisenhower Park, Long Island, looking for "the right shade of red or green or yellow" to complete another Tin Can artwork. For years, he refused for any kind of public showing except for a website set up by his son, Steven, back in 1997. In the Spring of 1999, Wasserman agreed to let his son arrange an exhibition of his tin can art at the Tennessee State Museum. Sadly, he died of complications related to Parkinson's disease during the preparations for that show. The exhibit opened on December 7, 1999 and was held over until March 10, 2000. Here are five of Wasserman's most impressive creations, shown with exclusive high-resolution versions as taken by his son.

The Circus Poster (above) is a 72 inches x 48 inches tin masterpiece made from ginger ale cans and cut from many dozens of cans of Pathmark Orange Soda (see detail). According to Steven Wasserman, after this monumental work was completed his mom took a vow never to drink orange soda again.

Based on a real baseball card and sized 21 inches x 30 inches the Baseball Card was Wasserman's first attempt to reproduce the human form out of tin cans and a great homage for legendary baseball player Willie Howard Mays of the New York and San Francisco Giants. According to Steven Wasserman, the owner of a leading New York art gallery offered his father a show if he would produce a dozen or more similar tin can "baseball cards." The gallery man was turned down because the purpose here was "to explore all the possibilities and challenges of creating 2-dimensional art out of metal" and that was already achieved.

Cartooning was Wasserman's commercial specialty. TAXI, a monumental 72 inches x 42 inches tin can cartoon, was made after a series of realistic pieces. Check out Bride and Groom below (48 inches x 72 inches).

Number 16 (below) is a 63 inches x 48 inches piece based on a photograph of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race winner. The work is displayed in the lobby of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville.

Want more of Wasserman's art? Contact Steven Wasserman and order a 8 1/2" x 10" 28 pages catalog with 43 full color reproductions and commentary by Bobby Hansson, Steven Wasserman, and Lois Riggins-Ezell (available "in limited quantities"). Following are 5 more fascinating examples of contemporary tin can projects and artists.

The Red Bull Art of the Can: Commercial interests meet art

It's not always a very good thing when business, commercial interests and pure art are mixing with each other but sometimes the results just speak for themselves. The Red Bull Art of the Can Competition is an international juried art competition in which International tin can artists use the Red Bull can as their primary medium. From spectacular Red Bull Snowboarder (above) to Red Bull Satellite and c130 aircraft (below) this show takes the raff up with nearly everything about tin can art technique.

For many more photos of The Red Bull Art of the Can works, including high-res where you can clearly see details (such as this Purse and that Catfish) see artofthecan photostream on flickr.

The Urban WoodsWalker: Pop Art Aluminum Can Hand Necklace

M.A. Enriquez, also known as Urban WoodsWalker has already been reviewed on cultcase with her spectacular "MONA" - a "Trash Chaos Vessel" made from newspapers and junk mail (see The Art of Junk: 7 Creative Approaches to Trash Reuse). Her used aluminum necklaces are made of beverage cans. The cans are washed and then the hands are cut out. According to Enriquez the hands remind her of Mexican Milagros (also known as ex-votos or dijes) - religious folk charms that are traditionally used for healing purposes. The above 1 3/4" x 1 3/4" item is named "Pop Art Aluminum Can Hand Necklace RESERVED FOR BRUCE". You can get yourself an "extremely similar" one such as the "Pop Art Aluminum Can Hand Necklace" shown below but not the Bruce one. There are no sharp aluminum metal edges, if you are asking yourself.

Enriquez's work is for sale at her etsy shop. She runs her own blog urban-woodswalker.blogspot.com and is the Admin of the especially originally named flickr group Fan>TAB>ulous Aluminum & Tin Can ART (Strongly recommend).

Orlando Forge Metal Studio: Blacksmith's Tin Can Art

The Orlando Forge Metal Studio in Belmont, NY makes custom forged steel, decorative and functional ironwork using "the time-honored tools, techniques, and traditions of the blacksmith". Charles Orlando who founded Orlando Forge Metal Studio has been working as a blacksmith for over twenty years. He taught and demonstrated blacksmithing techniques to blacksmiths and ferries across the United States and Canada and teaches regularly at the John C. Campbell Folk.

Amongst Orlando's other metal art works are reused tin can and other painted tin objects such as clocks, toys and musical instruments. Orlando's tin can works are included in the revised edition of Bobby Hansson's Fine Art of the Tin Can, 2005 (see Amazon). For more of his work see the Tin Can Art Gallery.

Janet Cooper: From Bottle Caps to Tin Can Dolls

In the 1980s Janet Cooper turned rusty bottle cap collection into a jewelry business and sold jewelry to stores, galleries and museum shops in the USA, Europe and Asia and sold it four years ago. Today, Massachusetts artist and curator Janet Cooper reuses mostly vintage cans to make unique somewhat 2D somewhat 3D figures such as the above.

Cooper's work also includes tobacco tags and other memorabilia items and has been showcased in folk art and contemporary craft museums. More reused art from Janet Cooper here.

VintageBeadShop: Vintage Tin Can Art Nursery Model

Most pieces at the etsy VintageBeadShop are either genuine antique, vintage, or made from the original old tooling from the early 1900's by family run shops that have been handed down through several generations. All are USA made -100% solid, pure brass. The above piece has a bit of a long title which kind of explains most of what we need to know about it: Vintage Shabby Chic Tin Can Art Nursery with Baby Doll Vanity Highchair Playpen Rocking Bassinet.

Here are just a few scraps: With the exception of "a few spots on the felt in the playpen and "some tiny rust spots on a few of the pieces" this set is promised to be in excellent condition for it's age as it was kept stored in china cabinets. Some measurements: Baby Doll: 4 3/4" L X 2" W from fingered hands to tiny little toes. Rocking Bassinet: 5" L X 5 1/2" H. Highchair with Movable Tray: 5 1/2" Tall X 2 1/2" W. More about this extraordinary set right here.

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  1. Anonymous31.10.09

    does anyone have a pattern of a hat made out of coke cans. My grandpa loves coke and I thought it would be fun to try to come up with a hat, top hat or whatever made of the christmas coke cans but not sure how to do it. Any help out there?

  2. Love the art!! I do spray paint art in my room so I have a ton of empty spray paint cans lying around (I guess you could call it decoration :P) I ended up spraying all the propellant out and used tin shears to cut the top and bottom off and get a sheet of metal like the side of the cans here! I made a hand like the one above but bent the fingers into a peace sign :).
    Gonna see if I can make a spray paint can out of the paint can sides!!

  3. That drop is having a direct impact on just how much people are getting for metal recycled materials.


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