WENDELL CASTLE | ARCADIA BENCH
Property from an Important Private Collection, Manhattan
stained mahogany stack-laminate with oil finish
signed and dated CASTLE 2010
36 x 88 x 31¾ in. (91.4 x 223.5 x 80.6 cm)
Overall in excellent condition. The wood surfaces present with very minor and faint indentations, concentrated to the edges of the seat and and edges of the base and consistent with age and very gentle use. Some very minor and faint surface scratches,the largest on the proper right edge of the piece and measuring approximately 2 inches long not visually detractive. One of the last pieces Wendell Castle ever made in mahogany, and has a richly seductive surface, particularly in its modulated intersections. The cantilevered seats, visually lightened by apertures in their backs, flow into one another like hills in a landscape. Further definition is provided by the unusual notched silhouette of the back.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Barry Friedman, New York, 2010
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Wendell Castle: Rockin', Barry Friedman Ltd., New York, 2010, p. 76 (for the model illustrated)
Emily Evans Eerdmans, Wendell Castle: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1958–2012, New York, 2014, cover and pp. 35 and 405, (for the model illustrated)
Wendell Castle: Rockin', Barry Friedman Ltd., New York, NY, May 6-June 26, 2010
Promised Land: Wendell Castle’s Arcadia
It is rare indeed for an American designer to be the subject of a catalogue raisonné. I can think of only one, in fact: Wendell Castle.1 It is a sign of his work’s importance, influence, and scope that he was accorded this signal act of research and documentation. Castle’s career spanned six decades, during which he transited through numerous artistic vocabularies, each a whole world of creative innovation. It says a lot that out of this enormous panoply, Arcadia was selected for the book’s cover. It was the perfect choice.
Castle had first established his greatness back in the 1960s, with a breakout series of sculptural furniture works. Most of these were made using his signature stack-lamination technique, which allowed him to compose freely in space, free from the restrictions of conventional joinery. Among the most ambitious designs of this era, in scale and conception, was a three-seater settee presently in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (accession no. 93.9). It exemplified Castle’s hybridization of contemporaneous modernism—reflected in the contours of the seats, which vaguely resemble plastic chairs by Charles and Ray Eames—and an organic sensibility, seen in the tree-like base.
Fast forward to 2010. Castle was just beginning to revisit his early, career-defining idiom. He retained the basic approach—stack-laminated curvilinear forms—and also reprised certain specific designs. Over forty years on, though, his work had a new sophistication, a refined control of transitions, compound curvature, and interpenetrating forms. Arcadia is a consummate example of this synthesis of old and new. One of the last pieces he ever made in mahogany, it has a richly seductive surface, particularly in its modulated intersections. The cantilevered seats, visually lightened by apertures in their backs, flow into one another like hills in a landscape. Further definition is provided by the unusual notched silhouette of the back.
First displayed in the exhibition Rockin’ at Friedman Benda—which otherwise focused on his sleek, laid-back rocking chairs—Arcadia was in many respects a unique achievement, a return that was also a breakthrough. His explorations next took him in a more monumental direction, often expressed in black monochrome; the compositions were often anchored into dramatic tapered cones, a development from the uprights he used here. Arcadia was a turning point, anticipating his triumphant late-career creativity. Castle could not have known it at the time, but his title for the work could not have been better chosen: for truly, it was the gateway to a promised land.
GLENN ADAMSON is the Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art and most recently the co-curator of Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years at the Museum of Art and Design (2015). His recent publications include Fewer Better Things: The Hidden Wisdom of Objects (2018); The Invention of Craft (2013); Postmodernism: Style and Subversion (2011); The Craft Reader (2010); and Thinking Through Craft (2007).
 Wendell Castle: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York: Artist Book Foundation, 2015).