January 25, 2010 | Please select an image below to view
March 2009 | Bernard Corman makes unusual and imaginative automotive sculptures, using the classic cars of the ‘50s as the inspiration for works which marry the mechanical to the organic, and often the bombastic to the comical. Corman is currently putting the finishing touches on a project which has taken over a year to complete, and is monumental in size and also in audacity.
“CaddyCorner,” one of Corman's signature pieces, is a reinterpretation of the 1959 Cadillac, one of the largest and longest of the classic American automobiles. It features fantastic styling elements such as an egg crate front grill, and also probably the most recognizable tail fins of all time. In Corman’s interpretation, the 1959 Caddy is bent 90 degrees, as if cartoonishly going around a corner.
The original “CaddyCorner” was table-top sized. At Laran Bronze, a world-class fine-arts foundry located in Chester, PA (www.laranbronze.com), the smaller sculpture was effectively enlarged to a life-sized version, with the finished bronze sculpture comprising 18 feet along the outer curve, and weighing in at over 4,000 pounds (including the steel sub-structure).
To create the finished product, which was commissioned by a Kuwaiti investor who prefers to remain anonymous, computerized equipment scanned every detail of the original. Next, a vastly larger version was carved out of a stiff foam material, utilizing a computer-controlled milling machine. This new positive image was then sanded , smoothed and detailed in preparation for the molding and casting process. Video of the processes, including the casting of the molten bronze, can be found in the blog area of Corman’s website, www.bernardcorman.com.
The process of creating this impressive and unique sculpture has been long and laborious. Some actual parts from a 1959 Cadillac were molded to create the front grill and the iconic tail fins, in order to provide a superb level of detail and accuracy. Also, the sculpture was cast in many separate pieces, which then were welded together to create the whole. The metal then required careful finishing, in which air and hand tools were used to meticulously polish the surface of the bronze. This created the gleaming smooth finish that attracts the eye and highlights the wonder of the life-sized “CaddyCorner.”
Lastly, Corman designed and installed a hidden seating area in the rear of the sculpture, a secret compartment which adds just that one more bit of fun to this already whimsical tribute to one of the great classic automobiles of all time.
As this goes to press, “CaddyCorner” is on a ship on its way to the Middle East, to be permanently installed in its new home, where it will doubtless bring joy to the eyes and minds of many.
Bernard Corman began sculpting miniature custom hot rods out of clay during his adolescence and has been sculpting and casting pieces that reflect his special take on things ever since. After attending the Art Institute of Chicago, Corman learned the lost wax process (in which a bronze is cast from an artist's sculpture) and moved east, where he took a staff position at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey. There he honed many of his technical skills while exploring the ideas which fuse his fondness for the surreal with his love of the American car styling from the fifties.
Over the years, Corman has built a major body of work. His creations are in many private collections including such celebrities as Elton John, Stephen King and members of the pop-rock band Blondie. Corman currently resides in New Jersey where he sculpts full-time.
Bernardo Corman's 2-ton 'CaddyCorner' headed to Kuwait
By Art Carey
Bernardo Corman's 2-ton 'CaddyCorner' headed to Kuwait By Art Carey Inquirer Staff Writer Bernardo Corman is only 51, so perhaps it's premature to call this his magnum opus. But for now, it's certainly the leading contender.
The piece in question is CaddyCorner, his whimsical salute to the Sputnik-era styling of the '59 Cadillac. Now at a Chester foundry waiting shipment to the Kuwaiti businessman who commissioned it, this monumental bronze sculpture is about the size (18 feet along its outer curve) and weight (more than two tons) of a real Cadillac.
Corman, an "automotive sculptor," specializes in "marrying the mechanical to the organic, the bombastic to the comical." His interpretation of one of the largest road yachts of the age of heavy metal shows the Cadillac with the defining rocket-ship fins bending itself into a 90-degree tuck as it negotiates a corner like one of those rubbery, fantastical vehicles from a Looney Tunes cartoon.
"I try to make stuff that is funny and cool and that people will look at and say, 'Wow, that's awesome!' " says Corman, who lives in Jackson Township, N.J.
His sculptures are owned by many private collectors, including Elton John, Stephen King, and members of the band Blondie.
"What I like most about his art is the humor," says Les Barany, a New York-based agent for artists and the author of Carnivora: The Dark Art of Automobiles. "There's a concept behind it, often a visual pun that's accessible even to someone not particularly into cars."
"The detail and craftsmanship of his pieces are amazing," says Christopher Robinson, who displayed Corman's sculptures when he was curator of a gallery in Freehold, N.J. "They show a tremendous amount of dedication and passion."
The genesis of the Cadillac piece was a tabletop sculpture that Corman consigned to a gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Kuwaiti businessman, who Corman says wishes to remain anonymous, was shopping for a yacht when he happened to see it. In 2006, he contacted Corman to express his admiration, and Corman proposed making a larger version, four or five feet perhaps. His Kuwaiti client had a better idea: "How about life-size?"
"I have to give credit to my client," Corman says. "He had the humor and imagination to enlarge it to something spectacular."
The process consumed 18 months and was, Corman says, "a real adventure." From his original piece, which was scanned with a computer, a full-size model was milled in Styrofoam at Laran Bronze, a fine-arts foundry in Chester. Corman then slathered it with Spackle and shaped and sanded the contours. "For weeks, it was just a giant drywall job," he quips.
To capture such distinctive details as the egg-crate grille and bullet-shaped taillights, he incorporated molds from actual Cadillac parts. Melding the dimensions of the real and surreal was an abiding challenge. Cadillac hubcaps, for instance, adorn Honda-size wheels.
"I took liberties and exaggerated," Corman says. "I love vintage cars, especially ones from the late '50s, which show so much imagination and style, but I like to have fun with them."
Immortalizing his vision in bronze was intricate and laborious, involving both sand and wax methods to make molds and castings. In the end, it produced about 35 bronze panels, each about a quarter-inch thick, that were welded together over a steel skeleton, then ground and polished smooth.
At the request of the client, who insisted on being able to sit in or on the sculpture, Corman converted the trunk into a rear-facing rumble seat, another touch of whimsy.
Because of its size and ambitiousness, CaddyCorner represents a departure for Corman, who usually does all the work on a project himself and, like most artists, is loath to cede control. In this instance, he was compelled to collaborate, to coordinate and oversee the work of several specialists. But ultimately, it's his creation, and he remained the perfectionist-in-chief.
"I take pride in my technical skill," Corman says, "and I want people to be impressed by the craftsmanship."
Corman, who grew up in Wisconsin and Chicago, began sculpting miniature custom hot rods out of clay when he was a teenager. He was inspired by the outlandish wheeled creations of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard. His artistic sensibilities, meanwhile, were shaped by the surreal cartoons of master animators Tex Avery and Chuck Jones.
After attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Corman moved east and spent four years developing his technical skills at the Johnson Atelier in Mercerville, N.J., near Trenton.
Corman is reluctant to reveal the price of CaddyCorner, except to say "mid-six figures."It will be heading to Kuwait at the end of the month. Its new owner operates a General Motors dealership there and intends to display the sculpture outdoors, where it's sure to attract attention, delight car shoppers, and push some iron off the lot.
For complete CaddyCorner photos, visit Featured Project.
Full-size Caddy sculpture destined for Kuwaiti client
By Keith Ruscitti
If you do quality work, you never know who will recognize it.
Such is the story of sculptor Bernardo Corman. The Jackson resident and lifelong car enthusiast has carved a niche as a pop-culture artist whose work is highlighted with a tinge of ironic wit.
For nearly three decades, the 51-year-old has produced a large assortment of car- and pop-culture-themed artwork. Some even sold for a couple thousand dollars.
But it was his creation, "CaddyCorner" — a 12-by-18 inch bronze sculpture of a 1959 Cadillac heading around a corner — that caught the eye of a Kuwaiti car dealer in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., boutique.
Two years ago, an associate of the businessman contacted Corman about replicating "CaddyCorner" into a life-size sculpture.
"I had never done anything that big, but I said, "Let's do it,' " Corman said.
The car dealer, whom Corman still never has met, paid him in the "mid-six figures" to reproduce "CaddyCorner." But it also required the Jackson resident to spend most of the past 18 months working on the project at the Laran Bronze Fine Arts Foundry in Chester, Pa.
During most of this period, he stayed in an apartment in South Jersey during the week instead of taking the more than 2-hour commute back and forth each day. That meant he spent a lot of time away from his wife, Donna, and his two children Ruby, 18, and Sam, 20, during the period.
"Bernardo is quite handy around the house, so it was up to me in his absence to pick things up," Donna said. "I think it was harder on him being away from us more than anything."
The foundry specializes in aiding artists who are producing large-scale projects. It is one of biggest facilities of its type on the East Coast.
And the employees of the foundry are experts at bronze casting and resin-bonded sand-casting — two techniques critical to Corman's piece.
"This was one of the first times I had to cede control to other people when doing a project," said Corman. "It was a different experience but a good experience. The people I worked with did a great job."
The process began by scanning the original three dimensionally. The model of the car was made out of Styrofoam sections that were sand-casted. Those Styrofoam pieces were connected. Corman spackled over the completed model to smooth the edges.
Some of the details and accessories on the car were molded from actual auto parts.
"It was like a big jigsaw puzzle," said Allen Ward, the project manager at Laran Bronze. "The whole process was pretty time-consuming."
In April, the piece was completed. Corman said his client has sent word he loves it. His friends and associates also have provided positive feedback.
"I am having fun doing what I do," Corman said. "Sometimes, it's not fun financially being an artist, but it's rewarding in many ways."
The foundry is in the midst of building a custom crate to load "CaddyCorner" into, Ward said. He said the piece will be loaded onto a cargo ship at the Port of Wilmington, Del., next week.
And then it's off to Kuwait for "CaddyCorner."
Meanwhile, Corman plans to visit Los Angeles in the near future to shop his works to Southern California galleries.
"I figure my work fits in with the car culture out there," said Corman. "I've always wanted to get out there. Now, I have the opportunity.
For complete CaddyCorner photos, visit Featured Project.
Classic Cadillac lives in sculpture
By Dave Benjamin
JACKSON — It may not be the solid gold Cadillac seen in the 1956 movie starring Judy Holliday and Paul Douglas, but this bronze classic, vintage 1959 Cadillac is sure to excite the fancy of everyone who will view it in the future.
"I had been thinking about that movie, 'The Solid Gold Cadillac,' in relation to this piece," said automotive sculptor Bernard Corman, of Jackson. "But it would be quite expensive to cast the vehicle in gold."
About 18 months ago Corman received a commission to enlarge one of his pieces, a tabletop size 1959 Cadillac sculpture, up to life-size proportions for a wealthy Kuwaiti businessman and collector, who, he said, wished to remain anonymous.
Corman makes unusual and imaginative automotive sculptures using the classic cars of the 1950s as the inspiration for his work, which marry the mechanical to the organic, and often the bombastic to the comical.
Currently, he is putting the finishing touches on a project he calls CaddyCorner — a life-size version of the miniature Cadillac.
The sculpture has taken more than a year to complete and is monumental in size and also in audacity, he said.
CaddyCorner, one of Corman's signature pieces, is a reinterpretation of a 1959 Cadillac, one of the largest and longest of the classic American automobiles. The work features styling elements such as an egg-crate front grill, and what may be the most recognizable tail fins of all time.
In Corman's cartoon-style interpretation, the 1959 Cadillac is bent 90 degrees, as if it were going around a corner.
"My original CaddyCorner was tabletopsize," said Corman.
At Laran Bronze, a fine-arts foundry in Chester, Pa., the smaller sculpture was effectively enlarged to a life-size version, with the finished bronze sculpture comprising 18 feet along the outer curve and weighing in at more than 4,000 pounds, including the steel substructure.
Corman said that about two years ago, he sold two small pieces to his client from Kuwait.
"One," said Corman, "was a small version of the CaddyCorner, which was like the one that is being enlarged, and the second was a sculpture of a car that turned into a lady's rear end, which is called 'Big Ass Buick.' "
He said that at the time, he was working for another local sculptor, Brian Hanlon, who creates life-size sculptures.
"Working with Hanlon, I became familiar with life-size figurative sculptures," Corman said. "I spoke with the client [in Kuwait], and he suggested a larger piece, a life-size automobile. [For me this] was really cool."
Corman said he became excited and enthusiastic when the suggestion was made.
"That is an awesome undertaking," he said. The process used to create the final product was quite complicated. It involved a computerized scanning of every detail in the original.
Next, a much larger version was carved out of a stiff foam material, using a computer-controlled milling machine. This new positive image was then sanded, smoothed and detailed in preparation for the molding and casting process.
"Part of this project was produced using sand molds," Corman explained. "The other way in which cast metal is created is a bit more complicated. Usually the sculptor makes a clay mold."
Corman said here, liquid castable rubber is coated and used as a mold. That mold is sloshed with hot wax, and the wax is pulled out of the mold to produce a wax pattern identical to the original.
The sculptor said wax pipes, also known as gates, are then attached, and slurry (a form of ceramic) is dipped in sand and allowed to dry. That process is repeated about a dozen times until a shell is built up, he said.
"At this point it is actually referred to as grade ware and is now similar to real ceramic," said Corman. "You put that in the oven and then fire it, melting away the wax, and the ceramic becomes very hard."
That is what the sculptor pours the molten metal into, he said.
Traditionally, bronze is what is poured into the mold, but people also cast aluminum or brass, the sculptor said.
Video of the processes can be found in the blog area of Corman's Internet website at www.bernardcorman.com.
In reviewing the process, Corman said some actual parts from a 1959 Cadillac were molded to create the front grill and the iconic tail fins in order to provide a level of detail and accuracy. He said the sculpture was cast in many pieces, about 50 in all, which were then welded together to create the entire work of art.
The metal then required careful finishing in which air and hand tools, grinders, were used to meticulously polish the surface of the bronze. This created the gleaming, smooth finish that attracts the eye and highlights the wonder of the life-size Caddy- Corner.
In a final step, Corman designed and installed a hidden seating area in the rear of the sculpture, a secret compartment that adds to his whimsical tribute to one of the classic automobiles of all time.
Corman began sculpting miniature custom hot rods out of clay during his adolescence and has been sculpting and casting pieces that reflect his special take on things ever since.
After attending the Art Institute of Chicago, Corman learned the lost wax process in which bronze is cast from an artist's sculpture.
Corman is presently on staff at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey, where he has honed many of his technical skills, while exploring the ideas that fuse his fondness for the surreal with his love of the American car styling from the 1950s.
Corman's creations are in many private collections, including those of Elton John, Stephen King and members of the band Blondie.
Corman's sculptures are available for purchase through Paypal.com.
For complete CaddyCorner photos, visit Featured Project.