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Los Angeles-based Christopher Tallon, a graduate of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, engages the histories of both fields in his playful reiterations of hand tools, free weights, and other decidedly un-fragile objects.

Reminiscent of Baroque trompe-l’loeil murals, Tallon’s true-to-life sculptures are inspired by the most prosaic, even macho, objects, remade with the simplest of raw materials: paper.

But what is a new hammer or a pristine set of wrenches when the first tap or twist will ruin it? Upon reflection, Tallon’s works address utility and its absence. More directly, they’re just plain fun.

Tallon’s paper barbells, saws, and vises have been exhibited in galleries in L.A. and San Francisco and, in late 2008, in a juried exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. In a city crawling with artists — at least 600 entered the competition — Tallon’s surprisingly fresh-looking tool bench was a highlight (it took second place), and his meticulous craftsmanship is the key.

It would be easy to mistake Tallon’s replicas for the real thing, but the hitch is that none of the objects he duplicates are intended to be as clean as the resulting facsimiles. Even a tool bench in a store display would likely bear some mark of its use; after all, tools are supposed to be dirty.

At a time when U.S. manufacturing — and school courses in woodworking and machine shop — are threatened with extinction, Tallon’s unused and unusable tools take on new meaning.

The recent economic downturn might indeed have Americans rethinking their disregard for the value of making. But if the age-old dyad of “man and his tools” does come to its rest, Tallon will ensure that it has a cheerful coffin.

>> More of Tallon’s Tools: latchgallery.com/tallon