'The Tool at Hand' at the Milwaukee Art Museum, installation view.
The Tool at Hand
February 1, 2013 - April 28, 2013
251 South 18th Street
Participating artists: Helen Carnac, David Clarke, Liz Collins, Chad Curtis, Michael Eden, Ndidi Ekubia, Joy Garnett, David Gates, Lisa Gralnick, Tavs Jorgensen, Mark Lindquist, Beth Lipman, Gord Peteran, Nicola Probert, Jonathan Prown, Caroline Slotte, Hongtao Zhou
In March of 2011, Dr. Ethan Lasser, then Curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Wisconsin, invited sixteen established artists from Britain and America to participate in an experiment: each artist was asked to craft a work of art using only one tool. Far from being a constraint, this unusual assignment unleashed a wave of creativity and wit.
The resulting exhibition, which features the works of art alongside images of the artists’ tools, and videos from the artists’s studios, debuted at the Milwaukee Art Museum in December 2011. The Philadelphia Art Alliance is delighted to host “The Tool at Hand” as it travels to museums across the United States, with destinations including the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon, and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Texas.
“The Tool at Hand” foregrounds fabrication and craft, and touches on the central concerns of the PAA, lending an artistic voice to ongoing conversations about the roles of design, craft, and skilled trades in both American education and the global race for economic supremacy. Ethan Lasser, the exhibition’s curator, notes that tools also have tremendous cultural value: “For centuries, artists and artisans have felt a particularly intimate connection to their tools. Tools have been described as extensions of the body, and in certain cultures, they have been revered as sacred objects with lives of their own,” Lasser says. The artists’ choice of tools is as diverse as their modes of expression, and range from the ancient to the high tech. Silversmith Ndidi Ekubia used a hammer and woodworker David Gates employed a saw, while ceramist Caroline Slotte used a dental drill, and Hongtao Zhou used his hands to melt wax which he then used to sculpt Burniture, a chair designed to melt from overuse.
Ethan Lasser recently joined Harvard Art Museums as the Margaret S. Winthrop Associate Curator of American Art. The Chipstone Foundation is a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts. The Milwaukee Art Museum’s holdings include more than 25,000 works spanning antiquity to the present day. With a history dating back to 1888, the Museum houses a collection with strengths in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, American decorative arts, and folk and self-taught art.
Click here to view each artist in the exhibition discuss their tools, and how they approached this unique challenge.