NEW YORK — From Oct. 20 to Feb. 28, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) presents “Wendell Castle Remastered,” 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 takes inspiration from the first decade of his own artistic production to create a new body of work that revisits his groundbreaking achievements of the 1960s through a contemporary lens. Castle innovated stack lamination, a technique in which he builds up forms out of thick boards of wood before freely carving them into dynamic shapes. In its beginnings, this sculptural approach to furniture making was unprecedented, and it came to define his pivotal role as a leader in the field.
“Wendell Castle has had a long history with our institution, which has shown his work for over 50 years,” said Glenn Adamson, MAD’s director. “It is nothing short of astonishing that he is now making some of the best work of his long career, work that attests to the value of deep expertise and experience. It is an honor to be able to give a platform once again to this important American artist.”
Alongside a selection of historically significant works, chosen by MAD’s Senior Curator Ronald T. Labaco, “Wendell Castle Remastered” presents new works realized through Castle’s 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 are installed in dialogue with the earlier pieces that inspired them. Furthermore, newly created bronze works, Wandering Mountain (2014) and Temptation (2014), will be installed outside the Museum’s Columbus Circle location, building upon Castle’s longtime interest in how his work engages outdoor and public spaces.
“Wendell Castle’s incorporation of new digital technologies into his individual practice has allowed him to dramatically expand his creative productivity yet remain quintessentially Wendell Castle. It is his constant innovation that remains at the heart of his enduring longevity in the field,” said Labaco. “In the early 1960s, Castle brought a sculptural approach to furniture making through stack lamination. Today, over 50 years later, he has returned to these roots but with the assistance of a CNC milling machine in the form of a robot named Mr. Chips. These extraordinary new works, never before possible, traverse the boundary between sculpture and furniture.”
While Castle’s approach to furniture making has evolved through his use of 21st-century digital tools, it remains rooted in handcraftsmanship and the same imagination that liberated him from the language of traditional joinery. The exhibition highlights Castle’s mastery of volumetric forms with a sculptural presence in the round, his vocabulary of softly organic shapes, and his invention of new furniture hybrids. “Wendell Castle Remastered” explores Castle’s increased capacity to address these themes, in ways that are now made possible through computer-mediated technologies. Gallery text, photography, and films will further illustrate how this new technology is changing the way he generates his work.