Wendell Castle - Important Design London Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Exhibited

    'Wendell Castle: Forms within Forms - The 21st Century', The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, 30 November 2012–3 February 2013

  • Literature

    Emily Evans Eerdmans, Wendell Castle: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1958-2012, New York, 2014, illustrated p. 406

  • Catalogue Essay

    The bold, dynamic form of the present lot exemplifies Wendell Castle’s career-long exploration of the relationship between form and function in his work. Executed in bleached mahogany, the ‘Angel Heart' rocking chair’s organic form is pierced by negative space, an expression of Castle’s endeavour and achievement in reconciling the historically disparate genres of furniture and sculpture. Trained as a sculptor, Castle turned to furniture early in his career with the aspiration to invent new forms. Over his six-decade career, Castle created a varied sculptural vocabulary expressed through his furniture designs, sketched by hand then executed with meticulous craftsmanship. In a 2012 interview with Glenn Adamson, Castle explained, ‘I wanted my work to have the same qualities as sculpture, and be accepted on the same terms’ (Emily Evans Eerdmans, Wendell Castle, A Catalogue Raisonné 1958-2012, New York, 2014, p. 15). Translating these ideas primarily into wood – Castle explored varied materials including both plastic and bronze – he encouraged greater engagement from the viewer. Castle’s unexpected designs explored sculptural balance, as illustrated by the present lot’s exaggerated curvilinear shape. Similarly, the rocking chair’s reclining pierced form reveals the influence of the British artist Henry Moore on Castle’s work.

    Castle first began experimenting with the technique of stack-laminated wood in the 1960s. The process granted Castle greater technical control over his work, allowing him to achieve new shapes on a larger scale, which were otherwise limited by traditional furniture-making techniques. Castle credited his early work in stack-laminated wood to laying the foundation of his art and subsequently that of the 'furniture as art' movement. In the last decade of his career, Castle returned to these early stack-laminated forms, embracing new digital technologies and robotic carving, which allowed him to reimagine the expressive potential of his materials. The use of robotic carving enabled Castle to explore forms of an even greater scale and complexity. His work, however, retained the expression of the artist’s own hand, with each piece developed from preliminary drawings and finally hand-finished by Castle. With the ability to realise large-scale contoured forms, Castle created a series of stack-laminated wood rocking chairs. These new animated forms were celebrated in a 2010 exhibition entitled ‘Wendell Castle: Rockin’’ at Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. The exaggerated ‘loop’ form of the chairs’ supports and their suspended seats convey a sense of speed, hinting at the designer’s passion for early racing cars. The series’ graceful, dynamic curves, as illustrated by the ‘Angel Heart’ rocking chair, demonstrates Castle’s mastery of his materials, and in the present example, reflects his dedicated exploration of the sculptural potential of wood.

    Castle's work can be found in the permanent collections of major museums and cultural institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.


Unique 'Angel Heart' rocking chair

Bleached mahogany.
77 x 92.5 x 172 cm (30 3/8 x 36 3/8 x 67 3/4 in.)
Inside of leg incised Castle 10.

£80,000 - 120,000 Ω

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta E Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Important Design

London Auction 18 October 2018