When designer and sculptor Wendell Castle launched his career in the 1960s, the only way to render the organic curves of his laminated wood seating on the massive scale he envisioned was with a mallet and chisel. Much has changed in the intervening half-century, and through it Castle has remained as groundbreaking as ever. In recent years, he has revisited the rugged art-nouveau-infused works of his early career, reinterpreting them in a new body of work updated for the digital age.
Last week, New York’s Museum of Art and Design unveiled an exhibit – Wendell Castle Remastered – dedicated to his recent explorations into digital fabrication methods. The first solo exhibition devoted to Castle’s digitally crafted works, the show includes pieces that range in size from a slender barstool to tables and floor lamps the scale of public monuments. And while Castle is primarily known for his wooden furniture, he has also worked in bronze, steel and fibreglass – all materials represented at the MAD’s exhibition.
Concurrent with the exhibition, MAD and the New York Department of Transportation – which operates an art program in the city’s public spaces – have erected two of Castle’s bronze sculptures as outdoor public seating. Though newly created, Wandering Mountain and Temptation are instantly recognizable as quintessentially “Castle.” Installed on Columbus Circle in Manhattan, outside the MAD’s doors, the sculptures have sweeping curves and rounded volumes that seem to be hewn from raw material, evoking landscapes or atavistic statues.
As museum-quality collectibles, Castle’s early works are virtually inaccessible to the public. These new interpretations, made as they were using less labour-intensive fabrication methods, will give many people a chance to experience one of Castle’s sculptural seats firsthand. “Through the installation of these works in a public venue, visitors will have an opportunity to experience how surprisingly comfortable these sculptural works can be, attesting to his mastery of the medium.” Positioned to capture the Columbus Circle monument in the background, the seats beg to be photographed.
Wendell Castle Remastered runs until February 28, 2016, at the Museum of Art and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York.