Wendell Castle in the 21st Century

March 4 - June 3, 2011

Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO

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The Belger Arts Center is happy to welcome home one of our region's most honored artists with “Wendell Castle in the 21st Century.” This exhibit, featuring more than a dozen recent works, will show a range of materials. Castle established himself in the early 1960s with his ground-breaking woodwork. We will have works made from ash, mahogany, walnut and bubinga; alongside new works made from stainless steel and polychromed fiberglass. The exhibit opens on First Friday, March 4, and runs until First Friday, June 3.

Born in Emporia, KS, Castle studied Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, earning a BFA in 1958 and an MFA in Sculpture in 1961. Ever since, he has been carving out his own niche in the creative community. Castle creates innovative objects. Some may be used as furniture. Castle has let the critics worry about categories over the years. The work speaks for itself, whether it is wood, metal, or plastic. As he approaches his 79th birthday later this year, we thought it would be fitting to host this look at his recent work.

Today, Castle's work can be found among the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and most of the major collections around the world, including the Belger Collection. In the 1980s Castle was commissioned by the Steinway piano company to design their 500,000th piano. Castle's piano, titled “Grand of the Artists”, toured worldwide and was signed by over 800 noted pianists.

In an interview in the New York Times last summer Castle remembered a gallery show in the early 1970s that resulted in zero sales:

“There are people who collect design now. At that time, there was no field thought of as 'design.' There was craft and there was fine art, and they were far apart in those days. While I wanted my work to have the art audience, the craft audience was much more interested in my woodwork... Art galleries used to not show work that they thought could have any sort of use. There's quite a few people whose work 30 years ago might have been in a craft category who are showing in prestigious galleries now.”

Since the early 1960s, Castle has been a teacher and an artist-in-residence at the School for American Craftsmen in Rochester, NY. In 1998 he founded the Wendell Castle Collection featuring hand- crafted objects made by world-class craftsmen and women. In 2007 Castle was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Design by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He has also been similarly recognized by the James Renwick Alliance, the American Craft Museum, and many other arts organizations.

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