On our recent trip to New York City, I visited the Museum of Arts and Design. One of the exhibitions that they were holding was for Wendell Castle, an American sculptor, designer, educator and furniture maker.He was the innovator of a method called “stack lamination” where he would stick together pieces of wood in layers and then carve into the block, creating a pattern in the grain of the wood. The link between the unnatural patterns manufactured in the layers of wood grain, against the organic forms that he creates is a really interesting juxtaposition. From a distance some of the pieces look as if they were naturally occurring and then you get a closer look and realise that they’ve been expertly hand crafted, which is odd to me when you consider that some of these items are meant to be functional piece of furniture.
In its beginnings, this sculptural approach to furniture making was unprecedented, and it came to define his pivotal role as a leader in the field.
Included in the exhibition were some works in progress, that showed the work before it had been sculpted and varnished. I found these pieces far more interesting than some of the furniture itself. I liked the pieces of wood in their natural form and preferred the almost cubist, block shapes rather than the natural, organic forms that you see in the rest of the pieces. You can also see pencil marks and numbers on the surface, I found myself drawn to the found, residual or unintentional marks, something that seems rather prevalent in my own work.
It makes me wonder whether some of the work that I have made, that I haven’t particularly liked would have been more successful in some of the earlier stages. when there’s something beautiful about the intention of what it could be or was.
I wanted to mention was the exhibition space itself. The walls had been painted a dark green, which I think complemented the surface of the varnished wood well. He also works with light in some of his pieces that bathed the room in a warm glow, this along with some strategically placed spotlights, created beautiful shadows that intersected each other creating beautiful, smooth shapes. I think that its important to consider these things when curating the degree show, i thought that the exhibition was one of the most engaging and inviting shows that i had seen.