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ReTooled Exhibition Crafts Beautiful New Narrative for Utilitarian Objects

Columbia, S.C. – The Columbia Museum of Art announces the summer exhibition ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, on view from June 2 through August 27, 2017. From the collection of American hardware-store tycoon John Hechinger, ReTooled features more than 40 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and photographs that provide a dynamic entry point into the rich themes, materials, and processes of 20th-century art.

“John Hechinger was both witty and brave as a collector, and he believed we should be surrounded by art in our everyday lives,” says Catherine Walworth, CMA curator. “Thanks to his particular compulsion for tools, ReTooled is a fun and relatable experience with art. For diehard contemporary art fans, it’s an opportunity to see some of the most important postwar artists tackling a subject close to their hearts as makers.”

ReTooled celebrates the prevalence of tools in our lives with art that offers affectionate, sometimes playful, tributes to tools as functional objects. It profiles 28 visionary artists including major names such as Arman, Richard Estes, Jacob Lawrence, Fernand Léger, and H.C. Westermann; photographers Berenice Abbott, William Eggleston, and Walker Evans; and pop artists Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist. The exhibition consists of four sections: Objects of Beauty, Material Illusions, Instruments of Satire, and Tools: An Extension of Self.

“For some artists in ReTooled, it’s about fine craftsmanship turned humorously on its head,” says Walworth. “For others, like feminist artist Phyllis Yes, the idea is to complicate notions of gender associated with tools. No two works are alike, even if they circulate around the same theme.”

Objects of Beauty highlights the notion that everyday instruments can be beautiful. In portraying these objects with a tone of reverence, the artists strip them of their utility, producing works that meditate on tools’ purity of design. These artists underscore the overlooked beauty of objects that improve our everyday lives.

In Material Illusions, artists modify and distort everyday tools to question their functionality. By reimagining a tool in a material that renders it useless, the artist separates form from function and changes the way we interact with that object.

In Instruments of Satire, artists repurpose, reframe, and redefine tools by injecting a dose of irreverent humor into an otherwise work-driven world; some juxtapose objects to create humorous dissonances. These works remind us of the joy and sense of play that defines creation.

In Tools: An Extension of Self, artists illustrate that tools have the capacity to actualize dreams, embody the can-do spirit that defines America, and symbolize our unalterable quest to improve our quality of life, both as individuals and as a society. Becoming surrogate limbs, tools compensate for our weaknesses and facilitate our greatest achievements.

ReTooled is a dynamic exhibition with a compelling mission: to celebrate an overlooked subject by engaging audiences with wildly creative and thought-provoking works that highlight formative trends of 20th century art.

“This will be a fun summer exhibition with a playful nod to our ongoing renovations at the CMA,” says Joelle Ryan-Cook, CMA deputy director and director of external affairs. “While tools will be fulfilling their function throughout the building, ReTooled offers visitors a chance to consider their value in other ways.”

ReTooled was organized for exhibition by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C., from Tools as Art: The Hechinger Collection, gift of John and June Hechinger.

For more information, visit columbiamuseum.org.
For hi-res images, visit columbiamuseum.org/about/newsroom/press-kits.
For more on International Arts & Artists, visit artsandartists.org.

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