James Castle (1899-1977), born deaf and mute, learned to communicate and interact with the world around him via visual and tactile means. In addition to his soot-and-spit drawings, Castle is well-known for his pieced-card constructions, which are intricate objects that animate forms ranging from furniture, to clothing, to birds. This chest-of-drawers is an abstracted expression of its source object. Drawers and their pulls are rendered loosely in soot and spit; the crossed strips of card, bound carefully to the piece with strings and thread of various colors, hint at the weight and structure of the form.
James Castle’s art has been the subject of multiple major museum exhibitions, including retrospectives organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.