Wendell Castle, who is widely recognized as the “father of the art furniture movement,” will exhibit a wide variety of drawings, maquettes and select sculptural and dimensional work inside Rochester Institute of Technology’s University Gallery from Aug. 22 to Nov. 11.
This marks the first-ever exhibition to focus on Castle’s creative process, providing evidence of how he conceives and creates. An opening reception for “Wendell Castle Imagined: A Revelation of Creative Process” will take place at the gallery inside the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences’ James E. Booth Hall from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. The reception is free and open to the public.
A native of Emporia, Kan., Castle conceives and identifies shape and form through a discipline of drawing several hours each day. His drawings begin as free sketches that capture a concept and form as the initial step in designing sculptural furniture. Certain drawings are chosen for further exploration and worked into a design series.
Using translucent paper through which the former drawing is viewed, he reworks the form until he is satisfied that it is a roadmap for the journey from paper to dimensional form.
Castle’s connections with Rochester, N.Y., and RIT run deep. Harold Brennan, the director of what was then the School for American Craftsmen (SAC), recruited Castle in 1962 to join the RIT faculty to teach woodworking and furniture design. SAC was the fertile ground where Castle’s creative roots took hold. He maintained his own studio on Troup Street in downtown Rochester, within walking distance of RIT’s then city campus during the 1960s.
By 1965, Castle’s work and influence positioned him at the forefront of the Craft Furniture Movement. He was a standout among a group of artists who became known for making furniture by a skilled hand, highlighting individual design and beauty to propel it into a new category: art.
Today, Castle’s designs are organic, bold and at times whimsical. Crafted from hardwoods, plastics, concrete and metals, he utilizes multiple disciplines that include stack lamination, hand carving techniques, casting forms in bronze, and programming a six-axis CNC milling robot to carve. In the 1970s, he moved to Scottsville, N.Y., where he continues to maintain an active design and production studio.
Castle has garnered a number of honors throughout his illustrious career, including the Leadership Medal in 2015 from the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian’s Visionary Award in 2014; and the Eastman Medal from the University of Rochester in 2013. Castle was inducted into RIT’s “Innovation Hall of Fame” in 2010.
His work has been exhibited around the globe, including London, Paris, Seoul and New York City. In addition to national and international private and public collections, Castle’s work can be found in the permanent collections of more than 50 museums and cultural institutions worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.