Between 1968 and 1973, Wendell Castle, revered designer-craftsman and pioneer of the American
studio furniture movement, embarked upon a brief but intense period of experimentation:
He temporarily abandoned his well-established career as the nation's foremost designer in wood to
immerse himself in hot-hued plastics. Lipstick pink, blood red, glowing lime and deep navy furniture for home and office emerged from his upstate New York studio, beguiling some, baffling others, creating a stir. The only leading American designer to use plastic in high design at the time, Castle unveiled an extraordinary but short-lived stream of works inspired by diverse, wide ranging influences -- Surrealism, avant garde Italian architecture, hot rod cars, Pop Art, mass-market television and movies. Today the pieces from Wendell Castle's now infamous 'plastic fantastic' period are considered icons, collected by museums and connoisseurs alike.
A highlight of this inspired moment in Castle's career was the 1970 exhibition "Sculpted Furniture
Forms" at the Lee Nordness Gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The show consisted of eight
fiberglass reinforced plastic forms that also functioned as lamps -- whimsical, bulging, sexy sculptures
bearing names of pop culture celebrities and cartoon characters. Using the same basic unit, Raquel
and Fat Albert and their cousins were deeply colored, witty pieces that, like so much of Castle's work,
blurred the boundaries between sculpture and furniture. "These are incidentally sculptures," Lee
Nordness noted, "which happen to light."
Each of the objects presented in "Sculpted Furniture Forms" was a unique piece handcrafted by the
designer, who hoped to put the entire group into small-batch production. Alas, Castle's plastic lamps
proved to be too far ahead of their time and the project was abandoned. The lamps disappeared and
were not seen again until the 2004 exhibition "Auto Plastic," organized by acclaimed curator Donald
Albrecht and presented at R 20th Century.
Now, forty years after Castle's unorthodox plastic masterpieces illuminated Lee Nordness Gallery,
R 20th Century is pleased to announce the production of five of these now-coveted designs. Consistent
with Wendell Castle's original intent, the lamps are being made in limited quantities and only eight
examples of each design will be executed. They will be made by Castle using his original molds and will be individually signed.