One of the ideas emphasized in my art school education was the importance of good design. Design was defined as the realization of a concept or idea into a model or configuration which helps achieve the item’s designated objective, combining elements such as form, function and craftsmanship. Some important questions facing furniture designers today are how to take advantage of new technologies and new materials, and Wendell Castle: Remastered addresses these questions, while portraying the evolution of Wendell Castle’s works, from his start in the 1960s to his current work.
When I first encountered Wendell Castle’s work in 2012, I was fascinated. With his roots in Emporia, Kansas, he is an American furniture artist and has been a leading figure in the art furniture movement. With this in mind, I thought a trip to the Museum of Arts and Design to see the exhibition Wendell Castle: Remastered would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about this part of art history.
Wendell Castle has been a sculptor, designer and educator for more than four decades. His innovative and influential work has led to the development of handcrafted, modern designer furniture as both functional pieces and a major art form. His works could be described as fluid and graceful, but also whimsical and organic.
During our private tour at the Museum of Arts and Design, our guide took us from the early stages of his prolific career that started in 1958 to his current works, as we discussed his influences and methods and observed the evolution of his designs over time. The fluid forms and inventive concepts found in his furniture design and sculptural pieces bring to mind images found in nature, and also have an otherworldly quality to them, such as his Squid Chair No.1, a sleek, bench-like form that rests on graceful tentacle-like legs.
Throughout the exhibition, there was an array of works in a variety of sizes, surfaces and textures, crafted in various materials using different methods. They demonstrated a refinement and elegance that invite the viewer to see them not only as functional structures, but also as sculptural works that would transform any environment, both indoors and out.
Both seeing the works and learning from our guide about his methods and techniques that he has continually developed and refined, helped us further explore his work beyond what we saw and read on the wall texts – the ability to hear details about his background and ask questions provided us a better understanding of his inspiration, vision and evolution over the decades.