Tools in Motion: Works from the Hechinger Collection
February 3, 2014 - March 22, 2014
Sculpture, mixed media including hardware
The Hechinger Collection was born in 1978, when the hardware industry pioneer John Hechinger found his new company headquarters efficient but sterile: “The building seemed to rebuke the fantasies that a hardware store inspires. For anyone whose passion is to work with his or her hands, a good hardware store is a spur to the imagination and a source of irresistible delights.”
Already the owner of “Tool Box”, a suite of silkscreen prints by Jim Dine, Hechinger began collecting art that highlighted the company‘s very livelihood and displayed it throughout the building to inspire employees. In 1998, the Collection left its original setting for public display.
This unique collection of tool-inspired art was the subject of an ongoing series at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, where its attendance was among the largest in the museum‘s history. In 2001, John Hechinger and International Arts & Artists (IA&A) launched a national tour, which continues to draw crowds around the country. Upon Hechinger‘s death in January 2004, IA&A assumed ownership of the collection.
At present, the Collection exceeds 375 works by 250 leading twentieth century masters and emerging artists that often blur the distinction between high and low art. Spanning a wide range of media, styles, and themes, the collection celebrates the dignity of common tools and the intrinsic beauty of their design, where form and function are often inextricably linked.
By identifying art with labor and tools, the exhibition highlights the act of creation as work and stresses the simple fact that artists use tools to make art. While many prefer to make the finished product seem effortless, much of the magic in the Hechinger Collection stems precisely from the way artists acknowledge the importance of tools and hardware. In the words of Jacob Lawrence “[Tools] have a history. In many of the religious panels of the Renaissance, you see the same tools as carpenters use today. They haven‘t changed at all since then, so they‘ve become a symbol of order and aspiration to me.”
Many of the works in the exhibition incorporate found objects as a means to break down the barrier between art and life and as a way to give new life and meaning to the detritus of society. This tradition, which began in the early part of the twentieth century with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, continues to be an active strategy today.
Tools have been a fundamental part of our history and prehistory. Mr. Hechinger notes: “When you go to the caves in France and look at the drawings of the cave men and women, you see their tools along with the bison.” Several of the exhibited works comment on the change from manual to technological labor. Others critique the roles of machines and consumption in contemporary society.
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