“Strength,” “resilience,” and the “spirit of creativity” are all words that have been used to describe the work of Wendell Castle. Spanning forty-five years of artistic development, Castle’s work exudes originality and superb craftsmanship. An artist who is represented in museums, private collections, and corporate holdings throughout the country, he continually questions and redefines the very notion of functional furnishings. He has remained at the epicenter of this genre, challenging traditional sensibilities of what sculptural furniture can and should be.
Castle modestly describes the work in this exhibition as following the basic principle—“KISS” (Keep It Simple, Stupid.) Far from simple in their development, the organic shapes are derived from endless drawings that exhibit “no extraneous parts, nothing that is not absolutely essential to the idea,” the idea being a visual response to specific shapes in nature and the environment. Once a design is drawn out, raw wood forms are chosen or mechanically laminated together with proper orientation. Castle aggressively begins the carving process with chainsaws and power tools; during the refinement stage, he finishes the works with traditional rasps and carvers’ tools.
The true mark of his craftsmanship and astute eye for design is the single, assiduously placed, small drawer within the body of each form. Taking the juxtaposition of sculptural object and functional furniture to the limit, the very notion of “using” these pieces is turned on its ear by the limitation of storage space and functionality of these drawers.
Castle's sophisticated selection of fine wood, textured, painted surfaces and rich facades are as charged as his creative process. Using primarily Douglas Fir, White Oak, and Jelutong (Malaysian plantation grown wood), he constantly “pushes the envelope” to blur the distinction between functional furniture and decorative sculpture.Teetering on this dual fence, these works are his response to, and continued exploration of a unique way of thinking about furniture as “ultra sculptural minimalist forms.”
Any attempt to place him in one niche is impossible. From his globular fiberglass furniture and bulbous lamp designs of the 1960s to his monolithic clocks and elaborate desk-and-chair suites of the 1990s to the present day, his luscious materials, dramatic finishes, and thematic tongue-in-cheek humor run the gamut of ingenuity.
“What all this really boils down to is simple: expect the unexpected, be offbeat and surprising, don’t be too serious, and keep pushing the target out further and further every time.”
Wendell Castle, quoted in Wendell Castle, exhibition brochure, Habitat Galleries, Boca Raton, Florida, March 7, 2002.