walnut, walnut plywood
28 ¼ in. (71.7 cm.) high, 69 in. (175.2 cm.) wide, 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) deep
desk and chair incised W. Castle 80
Fendrick Gallery, Washington, DC.
D. H. Hanks, The Evolution of the Workspace, exhibition catalogue, Steelcase, New York, 1983, pp. 16-17.
D. Taragin, E.S. Cooke, Jr., J. Giovannini, Furniture by Wendell Castle, exhibition catalogue, Detroit Institute of Arts, New York, 1989, pp. 46-47, pl. 16, no. 20;
A. C. Danto, P. T. Joseph and E. T. Cobb, Angel Chairs: New Works by Wendell Castle, exhibition catalogue, New York, Peter Joseph Gallery, 1991, pp. 35-36 for information on the desk and chair and p, 37 for a drawing of the desk;
T. Merrill and J. V. Iovine, Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam, New York, 2008, p. 42;
E. Evans Eerdmans, Wendell Castle: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 2014, p. 197.

Washington, DC, Fendrick Gallery, Furniture as Art II, November, 1980;
Brockport, New York, Tower Fine Arts Gallery, The College at Brockport – State University of Brockport, Faculty Show, November - December 1981;
New York, Steelcase Inc, Evolution of the Workspace, July - November 1983;
Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts; Wilmington, Delaware Art Museum; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery at University of Rochester; New York, American Craft Museum, Furniture by Wendell Castle, December 1989 - April 1991.

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Lot Essay

Inspired by the Winged Victory of Samothrace (circa 190 BC), the vigorous shapes of Wendell Castle’s masterfully carved 'Victory' desk conjure arched wings atop the forward thrusting chest and creased, billowing fabric of the Hellenistic masterpiece, dynamically changing as you move around it. The desk’s asymmetrical pedestal base, more elaborate on one side, perhaps recalls the fabric flapping in the wind to Victory’s right as well as the fact that, designed to be situated in a nook with one side obscured, she herself is carved with more detail on one side. The pedestal base was a form Castle often returned to, and here that dominant element morphs organically into the tabletop, or wings, without any disruption or fragmenting of parts.

Considered the father of the American Studio movement, Castle has inspired generations of designers through his work and teaching, based in upstate New York. Castle was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1932 and received a B.F.A. from the University of Kansas in Industrial Design in 1958 before graduating in 1961 with an M.F.A. in sculpture. After briefly working as a sculptor Castle began to devote himself exclusively to furniture. He saw sculpture and furniture as two sides of the same coin; his furniture stresses its three-dimensional form so creatively that it is, in essence, sculpture.

The 'Victory' desk and chair were the last of the initial set of stack-laminate pieces that Castle began making in 1963 through the 1970s. Recalling a how-to article he had read as a child on sawing, gluing and sanding blocks of wood to create decoy ducks, Castle was inspired to adapt the method on a larger scale. Once liberated from the dimensional constraints imposed when working with wood from trunks or from unpredictable cracking and splitting, his craft could now reflect his wandering, expansive and wildly imaginative concepts for sculptural furniture. Gluing together planks (using regular absorbent white glue as opposed to epoxy in order to avoid visible seams) in the rough outline of his desired form, Castle would then work his block like a sculptor, honing it down first with a chain saw, then a power chisel, followed by increasingly fine tools, until the piece was ultimately intensely sanded, and his soft, organic forms would emerge. Through this rigorous, innovative handcrafted technique, he created exquisite voluminous sculptural objects that blurred the line between art and craft.

With the 'Victory' desk, Castle arguably created one of the boldest and most expressive pieces of his groundbreaking stack-laminated group. The repeated curvilinear forms create a sense of movement that defies the inherent rigid structure of wood. The seamless, smooth flowing curves are further enhanced by the uniform color which he achieved through sourcing all the laminated planks from the same tree.

Recently, Castle returned to his pivotal stack-lamination method. This time, however, he reinterpreted it by combining his handcraftsmanship with digital technologies, including 3D scanning, 3D modeling, and computer-controlled milling, to make a new series, examples of which are currently on view at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in the exhibition, Wendell Castle Remastered (20 October 2015 - 28 February 2016).

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