In March of 2011, the Chipstone Foundation invited sixteen established artists from Britain and America to participate in an unusual experiment: each artist was asked to lay aside his or her standard tool kit and craft a work of art with one tool alone. The Tool at Hand showcases these works, the tools that crafted them, and short, explanatory videos produced by each artist, in the Milwaukee Art Museums Decorative Arts Gallery
, December 8, 2011April 1, 2012.
The challenge presented to the artists sounds simple: create a work of art with one tool. The material and tool to be used were left open-‐ended, with the purpose of encouraging creativity within the one-‐tool constraint, said Ethan Lasser, curator of the exhibition for the Chipstone Foundation. 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.
The exhibition features a variety of mediums and tools, ranging from paintings to sculpture, a paintbrush to a dental drill. For example, Hongtao Zhou uses a double boiler to melt wax that is then molded into a chair. As a commission that imposes a sharp and rather unusual constraint, The Tool at Hand puts the skill and creativity of some of the most talented names in the art world today to the test. As a project that offers makers a chance to reflect on the way they use their tools, the exhibition promises to open a window into a relatively unexplored dimension of the artistic process, said Lasser.
The artists who have crafted work for The Tool at Hand include Helen Carnac, David Clarke, Liz Collins, Chad Curtis, Michael Eden, Ndidi Ekubia, Joy Garnett, David Gates, Lisa Gralnich, Jon Prown, Tavs Jorgensen, Mark Lindquist, Beth Lipman, Gord Peteran, Hongtao Zhou and Caroline Slotte.