“My furniture goes against the mainstream of twentieth-century design. I have no special interest in form following function. I try in my work to fulfill both the aesthetic and the practical purpose, but if one were to become dominant I would choose the aesthetic. (To be inventive and playful and produce furniture which is a complement to nature, rather than in contrast to it is my philosophy. My idea is not to reconstruct or stylize natural forms, but to produce a synthesis or metamorphosis of natural forms.)”
—Wendell Castle artist statement in the exhibition catalogue for Fantasy Furniture, held at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts of the American Craftsmen’s Council, New York, January 21–March 13, 1966
Celebrated American designer/craftsman Wendell Castle (b. 1932) has been creating unique pieces of handmade sculpture and furniture for over five decades. Castle, who has consistently challenged the traditional boundaries of functional design since the outset of his career, was instrumental in helping to shape the American studio furniture movement throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He remains one of the most important American furniture makers working today.
The pieces in this exhibition were chosen for their significance within Castle’s oeuvre, but also for the narrative they tell about his work and its relationship to the current environment for art and design. Almost all of them were hailed as revolutionary in changing the way we look at furniture and had an undeniable, though rarely explicitly recognized, influence on generations of artists and designers around the world. Together, these works tell the story of how Castle nimbly combined art, craft, and design, presenting a definitive study of his strong artistic vision.
Curated by Evan Snyderman and Alyson Baker.