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Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art

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Beach Museum of Art
Kansas State University
14th St & Anderson Ave
Manhattan, KS 66506


Tools In Motion: Works from the Hechinger Collection

June 3, 2006 – August 27, 2006

From a man haplessly sawing himself off a high perch to a group of vise grips navigating a swift current, Tools in Motion transports the viewer to a realm just offshore from reality. All at once, anything seems possible—shovels have dreams, light bulbs morph into butterflies, and rusted tools become a wiggling bird. Through the transforming and healing hands of the artist, the common utilitarian object takes on a new life. The familiar and magical comingle, and expectations of tools are rethought.

Organized and circulated by International Arts and Artists, the exhibition was drawn from “Tools as Art: The Hechinger Collection,” a remarkable assembly of works that reflects the singular vision of John Hechinger (1920-2004). In 1978, the hardware industry pioneer began collecting art that highlighted the family business when he found his new company headquarters efficient yet sterile:

“The building seemed to rebuke the fantasies that a hardware store inspires. For anyone whose passion is work with his or her hands, a good hardware store is a spur to the imagination and a source of irresistible delights.” –John Hechinger

As the collection grew, Hechinger came to realize he had tapped into a rich aesthetic vein. While countless artists have represented tools in their work since prehistoric times, it was not until the last century that tools entered the mainstream of art making. At present, the collection exceeds 375 works by more than 250 leading modern and contemporary masters as well as emerging artists.

Spanning a wide range of media, styles, and themes, the collection celebrates the dignity of everyday tools and the intrinsic beauty of their design, where form and function are often inexorably linked.

Tools in Motion features the two series that launched the collection – the kodaliths, by acclaimed designer Ivan Chermayeff, and Tool Box, a suite of silkscreen prints by world-renowned artist Jim Dine. The kodaliths are striking black-and-white photographs with no half-tones, which distill hardware almost to the point of abstraction. Dine’s prints juxtapose real and invented objects in a playful blurring of art and life. Already evident in both are what Hechinger would later call the twin pillars of the collection, morph and magic.

Indeed, the collection profoundly advances the still life tradition, which in the 1700s ranked at the bottom of the artistic hierarchy while allegory and history painting ranked at the top. In the early 20th century, however, experiments with content and presentation by Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, among others, helped the still life escape its conventional limits. In this regard, the Hechinger Collection’s chief contribution is its unfailing promotion of the humble tool to the status of art by fusing the inorganic and the organic in startling new ways.

The following businesses are working on the Beach Museum of Art expansion project and are pleased to support this exhibition: Coonrod & Associates, D.L. Smith Electrical Construction, McElroy’s Inc., Hi-Tech Interiors Inc., Bamford Fire Sprinklers, Gray & Co. Inc., Manko Window Systems, Wildcat Construction Co. Inc., Schwab-Eaton P.A., Yarnell Associates, Architectural Engineers Collaborative PLLC, Energy Engineering Associates Inc., Andersson-Wise Architects, and Benz Resource Group.