Wendell Castle Remastered will be the first museum exhibition to examine the digitally crafted works of Wendell Castle, acclaimed figure of the American art furniture movement. A master furniture maker, designer, sculptor, and educator, Castle is now in the sixth decade of a prolific career that began in 1958—one that parallels the emergence and growth of the American studio craft movement.
In this solo exhibition, Castle casts a critical eye toward the first decade of his own artistic production by creating a new body of work that revisits his groundbreaking achievements of the 1960s through a contemporary lens. This self-reflective meditation examines a crucial period during which Castle’s sculptural practices came to define his pivotal role as a leader in the field, and set the foundation for his longevity.
Based on a selection of historically significant works chosen by MAD curator Ron Labaco, Castle will produce new works through his latest practice of combining handcraftsmanship—such as carving, rasping, and finishing—with digital technologies—including 3D scanning, 3D modeling, and computer-controlled milling. These new works will be installed in dialogue with the earlier pieces that inspired them.
Today, even though Castle’s approach to furniture making has evolved through his use of these 21st-century digital tools, it remains rooted in handcraftsmanship, and the same imagination that liberated him from the language of traditional joinery, thus enabling him to work in a process more analogous to sculpture. His early innovations include the first use of stack lamination in furniture, the creation of volumetric forms with a sculptural presence in the round, a vocabulary of softly organic shapes, and the invention of new furniture hybrids. Wendell Castle Remastered will explore Castle’s increased capacity to address these themes in different ways that are now made possible through computer-mediated technologies.
Wendell Castle Remastered is organized by MAD’s Marcia Docter Senior Curator Ronald T. Labaco and Samantha De Tillio, Curatorial Assistant and Project Manager. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated, full-color catalogue published by the Museum of Arts and Design and The Artist Book Foundation.
Support for Wendell Castle Remastered is provided by Friedman Benda, Autodesk, the Anne and Ronald Abramson Family Foundation, Ann F. Kaplan and Robert Fippinger, Susan Steinhauser and Dan Greenberg, the Margaret and Daniel Loeb – Third Point Foundation, Jane and Leonard Korman, Fleur Bresler, Anita and Ronald Wornick, Diane and Marc A. Grainer, George L. Lindemann, and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.
Additional thanks to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Official Airline of MAD.
Born in Kansas in 1932, Wendell Castle received two degrees from the University of Kansas, one in industrial design in 1958 and the other in sculpture in 1961. He moved to Rochester, New York to teach at the School for American Crafts and established a permanent studio in the area that is still in operation today. He has continually reinvented himself for nearly six decades.
Often credited as the founding father of the American crafts movement, Castle has redefined sculpture and design by seamlessly merging the two into one discipline. He creates unique pieces that blur the distinction between design and sculpture. Castle’s organic and whimsical approach to sculpture incorporates his own invented technique of carving into stacked laminated wood known as lamination. His furniture designs for residential clients, public spaces, and a number of churches represent a unique exploration of the qualities and possibilities of wood and fiberglass.
His work can be found in the permanent collections of more than forty museums and cultural institutions, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the White House in Washington, D.C. Moreover, he has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including four National Endowment for the Arts grants and the Modernism Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brooklyn Museum in 2007.