At MAD, Wendell Castle Makes Craft Matter

THE DAILY PIC: Castle's '50s and '60s carvings had precious links to their era.


THE DAILY PIC (#1474): These two pieces – a 1959 sculpture and a 1962 chair-ish thing – are some of the earliest pieces by the craftsman Wendell Castle, and are now in his solo show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. They are gorgeous, but they also happen to prove the worth of art history. Their connections to the fine art and culture of their time – to Surrealist dreamscapes of the 50s and the long-haired extravagance of the 60s – give them special resonance and makes them feel as though they matter. Their commitment to fine craft and its updating made them matter even more.

They also point up what’s wrong with the much more recent works by Castle in the MAD exhibition. Those have almost no connection to the new ideas that have circulated in art and culture and craft for the last 40 years. They are carved by 21st-century computers, sure, but only so they can look more like a Jetsons’ vision of the future – which dates to 1962. (Left, courtesy Friedman Benda, New York, photo by Adam Reich Photography courtesy Friedman Benda and the artist; right, courtesy The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Liliane and David M. Stewart Collection, gift of Vivian and David Campbell, photo courtesy Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)

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