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Before the advent of team-building and corporate psychology, hardware magnate John Hechinger Sr. was looking for a way to increase employee morale at company headquarters. So he started an art collection: “The inspiration for the collection was the hope that surrounding employees with artistic expressions of the same objects they handled in the tens of thousands would bring a sense of dignity to their jobs.” Twenty-one years later, he has amassed 350 representations of tools in photographs, sculptures, paintings, crafts, and other media, 50 of which can be seen in “Tools as Art IV: Material Illusions.” The only common thread among the international and D.C.-based artists is their ability to bring emotion and feeling to objects with no archetypal sentiment: Cindi Morrison’s Key to My Heart features a black dustpan covered in rows of 3-D hearts, locks, and keys. It’s hard to imagine that Hechinger’s collection would have been as cheeky and inventive had he been the proprietor of say, Wal-Mart: Andrey Chezhin’s photo of a Soviet citizen with a giant nail in the center of his featureless face is described in the exhibit brochure as “perhaps the final do-it-yourself project.” Contributing local sculptor Charlie Brouwer sums it up: “Tools are what make us human and allow us to build civilization; they make work possible; they make ideas possible.” Guest curator Sarah Tanguy and artist Andrey Chezhin give a gallery talk at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24. The exhibit is on view through April 4 at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. Free. (202) 272-2448. (Louis Jacobson)