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Wendell Castle at Carpenters Workshop

Pioneer of the art furniture movement, Wendell Castle shows his latest work at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 8.

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Text by Nadine Botha
Photography courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

“Why couldn’t furniture be just as expressive and have every bit as much power and strength as sculpture?” father of the art furniture movement, Wendell Castle explains the motivation behind his distinctive work. An exhibition of his most recent pieces, Planting Seeds, is currently on show at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6.

“I actually think of my work as if I planted a seed and this organic thing grew up,” the octogenarian pioneer says about his organic forms that evoke fantastical felled trees. “That the chair part might hang off the side, [or] hang off both sides, like the fruit or the flower of the piece.”

Having studied industrial design at the University of Kansas, Castle went on to obtain a Masters of Fine Art specialising in sculpture. He openly talks about being directly inspired by modernist Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, and surrealist sculptors and painters such as German-French Jean Arp and Spanish Joan Miró.

In the 1970s his methodology of carving stacked laminated plywood gave him the breakthrough he sought to make functional sculptures. Originally working entirely by hand, these days he uses a customised robotic arm to print out the forms of the plywood that, when cut and assembled, produce an almost complete form. The work is then hand-sculpted with a chisel, smoothed with a fine grain, and grooved with a saw, before an ebony stain is applied to absorb the light and lend the piece visual weight.

The result is “work that grows old but never ages”, according to the Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Melting Into Air (2015), stained ash. Photo: Adam Reich
Melting Into Air (2015), stained ash. Photo: Adam Reich
A Sculpted Door (1976), maple, ebonised maple, glass, brass fitments.
A Sculpted Door (1976), maple, ebonised maple, glass, brass fitments.
Detail of A Sculpted Door (1976), maple, ebonised maple, glass, brass fitments.
Detail of A Sculpted Door (1976), maple, ebonised maple, glass, brass fitments.
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6
Detail of Melting In Air (2015), stained ash
Detail of Melting In Air (2015), stained ash
Detail of Melting In Air (2015), stained ash
Detail of Melting In Air (2015), stained ash
Arm In Arm (2015), bronze
Arm In Arm (2015), bronze
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6
I Give It All (2016), stained ash
I Give It All (2016), stained ash
Detail of I Give It All (2016), stained ash
Detail of I Give It All (2016), stained ash
Hopeful Morning (2015), stained ash
Hopeful Morning (2015), stained ash
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6
Installation view of Planting Seeds at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until May 6

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