Wendell Castle (1932-2018)

Wendell Castle (1932-2018). It is hard to believe that he is gone. And so sad. Often called the Dean of American Design, and the Father of the Studio Furniture Movement, the Rochester-based visionary furniture maker should be credited for elevating furniture into the territory of fine art. His immense talent has been recognized in countless awards, exhibitions, and publications for over half a century of a legendary career, where Castle had constantly challenged the boundaries of design, moving from wood to plastic, to fiberglass, bronze, and back to wood, always conversing with the zeitgeist, always progressing with his art, constantly remaining fresh and surprising. But for those who knew him, he was known as the gentleman of the design world. So successful, yet modest, ambitious, yet humble, a man of dignity, passion, generosity, and grace. He read this blog every week. The design world mourns a legend who created magical furniture. 

Here is what I wrote in my blog about his last solo show at Friedman Benda in the summer of 2017 – 

​”What I find mostly breathtaking about Wendell Castle, beyond his superb talent and unparalleled control over his discipline, beyond his sweetest personality and genuine, real character, is the way he has never repeated himself, always inventing, always renewing, never going back, but departing over and over again, each chapter is built upon the previous, each comes to mark another step in his immense body of work. His new exhibition ‘Wendell Castle: Embracing Upheaval,’ opened last week at Friedman Benda is another victory, another example of fresh, unexpected devotion to his craft. If you think that you have seen it all, or if you believe that Castle has reached the peak of his ability, then you come out of this exhibition totally surprised. Three series are presented in this exhibition, each stands on its own, and together they are beautifully integrated within each other. ‘Free Forms’ is composed of volumes that look as if they grow out of natural logs, as if they are flowing above streams of trees in the most perfect balance and harmony.  The series ‘Blocks, also relating to the form of the tree, but this time, growing out of masses and abstract wood blocks, as if they are carved in nature. The third series, no less surprising, consists of bronze cast sculpture and functional pieces, vaguely relate to his previous attempts in bronze, but now Castle has ultimately resolved the material. The black patina is a great choice, and the forms no longer look as if they were made for wood, but successfully represent the quest to master the bronze. And while he has six-decade of a spectacular career behind him, Castle embodies the core principle of his identity as “a true artist or designer,” as he announces in the essay published in the exhibition catalog, “is someone who does something for the first time, something, human, something that touches others.”


With Wendell Castle at Design Miami

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