The Art of Can

Submitted byadmin onFri, 10/09/2009 - 00:00

The Red Bull can stands around 10 centimeters high. It’s a delicate looking object but its tensile strength is indicated by its steely like high-toned finish and distinctive red and blue markings like those of an American flag. Pressed between the palms or sliced with scissors its malleable which is why it lends itself easily to new shapes and forms. Its cylindrical shape means that it can balance upright, while its key-ring stopper, lend itself to Calder-like mobility. It’s versatile, and perhaps this is why it has proved popular the world over as a sculptural form. Or perhaps, in addition to all its material qualities, the signifiers that accompany this little can, such as youth, energy, party-life, style and a cosmopolitan wealth make it attractive to those who want to appear to be part of fashionable high culture. And since the product itself is relatively inexpensive and available in supermarkets, it’s easy enough to be part of that world on fewer dollars than a red stripe. 

It’s not surprising then, that the exhibition The Art of Can currently showing at Devon House featuring a range of artists and non-artists all working the same medium of this little can, is proving more successful than many art events this year. It’s beautifully catalogued, and sensitively mounted showing its more than 50 works to advantage. Apparently, the drink that claims a high energy boost has become popular enough for Jamaicans across the island to create whimsical and powerful red bull forms, including cars, costumes, masks, townscapes and gardens. Red Bull demonstrates that there is an art to making art work for you. It’s a shame other institutions do not have the stamina to be just as bullish.