Wendell Castle, "father of the art furniture movement", dies aged 85

Wendell Castle "father of the art furniture movement" dies aged 85

American designer and artist Wendell Castle, famous for his elaborate woodwork pieces, has died aged 85 after a battle with leukaemia.

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), where Castle was an artist-in-residence, announced that the designer passed away at his Scottsville home on 20 January 2018.

The designer had reportedly been in and out of hospital for the last two months.

Described by RIT as the "father of the art furniture movement", Castle was known for work that straddled both the categories of art and design.

Born in Kansas in 1932, he studied both industrial design and fine arts degrees at the University of Kansas, and practiced as a sculptor and designer for more than four decades.

Castle unveiled new sculptural pieces at Carpenter's Workshop Gallery in Paris in 2016, in an exhibition called Planting Seeds

In the early 1970s, in a rapidly expanding industrial society, Castle's pieces took a sculptural form as he started working with plywood. Throughout his career, he focused on wood as his primary material.

"Wood and bronze are the ideal materials for furniture," Castle said in an interview with Dezeen last year,  shortly after the opening of his Planting Seeds exhibition at Carpenter's Workshop Gallery in Paris.

"They provide unlimited opportunities to do pretty much anything you want in regards to form."

From 1962 to 1969, the designer taught at RIT, and was an artist-in-residence at the institute up until his death.

"Wendell Castle is known the world over for his contributions to the field of art and design," said Josh Owen, professor and chair of RIT's industrial design program.

"[He] gifted us with his enthusiasm, his eagerness to collaborate and share, and his generosity to deliver his intentions with tangible and always elegant results."

Castle's works can be found in the collections of over 50 international museums, including the V&ALos Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Over the course of his career, he was awarded a number of accolades from institutions including the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery and the American Craft Council. In 2007, he received the Modernism Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brooklyn Museum.

Castle is survived by his wife, fellow artist Nancy Jurs; two children, Alison and Bryon; and two grandchildren, Arabella and Archibald Staropoli.