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Monday, August 5, 2019

Tire Art

Animals made from tires by 34-year-old Yong Ho Ji. His stylized horse is some nine feet tall at the head.
As an art instructor at all levels for some twenty-six years, I often found myself in need of supplies. Of course, the most fundamental answer to this need was discarded material, ranging from such old standbys as toilet paper tubes, newspapers, magazines, and corrugated cardboard to more sophisticated items such as pine cones, yarn cones, and potatoes. When you have the main element available free, or at a very low cost, the decorations and other factors that make such art a thing of beauty can come out of the art supply budget. For example potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, can easily be carved safely by even the youngest art students if given the right tools appropriate to their age. I used wooden ice cream sample "spoons" with first and second graders. When finished, they make good "feet" for their potato heads (the most likely outcome). Painting the item was optional. Perhaps not in the case of potatoes so much, but quite often such "art supplies" would otherwise end up in a landfill. Thus, such project are environmentally friendly. This consideration becomes doubly important when the adult artist has developed more sophisticated tastes and skills.
The Korean-born artist uses a steel frame then meticulously
hand cuts each detail from used tires.
Over 1 billion tires are manufactured annually, made of synthetic rubber, natural rubber, carbon black, polyester fabric, and steel wire. Tires stay in the environment an exceptionally long time. Green-thinking artists such as Yong Ho Ji (top and above) are doing something with them. And though his rubber figures are much larger and infinitely more intricate than a potato head, like his juvenile counterparts, he also favors animals. Today a typical tire consists of about 28 percent natural rubber, 28 percent synthetic rubber (made from oil), and 28 percent carbon black filler—a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products. Anywhere from 15 to 38 liters of oil are used to make a standard tire. The remaining 16 percent of the tire is composed of different functional agents such as softeners (hydrocarbon oil, resins), antidegradants (para-phenylenediamine, paraffin), curatives (sulfur, sulfemamides) and activators (zinc oxide, stearic acid). If tires burn, it is an extremely toxic cocktail, both for the atmosphere and nearby groundwater. However, the future holds promise, as manufacturers are now testing more sustainable ingredients.

Monogram, 1955-59, Robert Rauschenberg.
The tire "belt" is not as obvious as that of his present-day followers.
Robert Rauschenberg
If we go back looking for the first artist to ever utilize tires as a major element in their work, we inevitably land on Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg (right) was primarily known as an avant-garde painter and collage artist, also using various "found" objects in his collages. However, his Monogram (above), dating from 1955-59 is both a collage and a sculpture. Apparently he "found" a tire somewhere. The world of recycling and creativity has made great progress since Rauschenberg. Things that are worthless and no longer useable around the house, in the hands of a sculptor can become, in a sense, "black gold." Most people don’t care about old used things and throw them out as rubbish. But in the modern world of creativity, DIY ideas can be found virtually everywhere.

There's no hiding the fact that Zak's designs center upon tires...a sort of "retire"ment.
Fashionable recycling is often the best way to use the old things like, tires, pallet wood, rubber and many others. Applied ideas can serve in dozens of modern ways to save your hard- earned money on expensive home items and such routine useable items as furniture. Old reusable items can form the basis for many attractive and practical additions to the home, lobby, kitchen, and as room decorations; or, as the Italian designer, Zak, simple items of furniture. You might not want them for the living room, but such furnishings would look not at all out of place in a "man cave," in the garage, or on the patio.

Tire Ball, by Seamster
Tires, being such a basic shape, allow for circles, cylinders, cones and virtually any other shape not involving corners or straight edges. Therefore, tires lend themselves quite readily to abstract forms. If you're in the mood to make a funky piece of recycled yard art, or you've just have a strong desire to abuse some power tools, try making a "tire ball" (above). Although it may look relatively simple, it's not. Detailed instructions (with pictures) are available at:  . If sawing up three tires at precisely the right angle seems too easy, you might try tire carving as in the work of Wim Delvoye (below). Sometimes he carves only on the sidewall, sometimes both there and on the tread. Sometimes he carves to a depth to let light pass through; sometimes he works in low relief. Obviously he must plan carefully in order to make the starting point and finishing point correspond. And if he makes a mistake, well, there's always the spare tire in the trunk of the car.

Tire carving by Belgian artist, Wim Delvoye.
Again we must come to grips with the problem: Where does one hang such art?
Tire carving probably best resides in the enclosed, secure confines of an art museum. But some items of tire art would definitely look out of place inside...even inside an art museum. Some such works are site specific, that is, they must be partially buried and/or anchored to the ground such as the nightmarish worm (or snake, take you pick) seen below. The cobra? I don't think I'd want that in any room in my home (I'm sure my wife wouldn't). And the roadkill--obviously not out in the middle of a highway, but perhaps beside a road, well anchored into the ground, of course, to prevent theft or some practical joker from moving it to a double yellow line.

Can you imagine the fun kids might have getting "eaten" by the creepy, crawly creature in the park? Of course, one might want to first check inside for real creepy crawling creatures.
Going back probably to discarded tires from the early Model T Fords, dads have turned old tires into swings, suspended from the limbs of trees, Today, that and several variation are still in use. However, grownups have also realized that turning old tires into delightful garden animals such as the bug-eyed frog below, or simply as landscape ornaments. Frogs, apparently, lend themselves quite easily ro tires once their rubber has hit the road for the last time. And since they are all but impossible to biodegrade, as an art material, they are very archival.

In using tires to create garden ornaments, the difficult part is
keeping the kids from playing with them.
Ficus Elastica Robusta
By Ann Carrington
Commissioned by Seeds of Change
Hampstead Heath, London.

There are probably easier
ways to frame pictures,
but none cheaper.


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