First Look: Upstairs, Downstairs

Wendell Castle’s latest”and perhaps greatest”new work will be on view at Friedman Benda starting January 10, through February 9. An American rock star of design, Castle has been creating his sensual, biomorphic sculptural furniture since the sixties, when he found that working with a process called stack-lamination allowed him to delve deeper into creating more volume in his wood sculptures. I stopped in at the gallery just after the pieces had been installed. This is a view of Castle’s most ambitious piece to date: A New Environment. It spans two stories and features a carved nest that you can actually enter and are encouraged to curl up in. The LED light is not at all apparent when the lights are off. When they’re on, as in this photo, it looks as if this elliptical pod has a small universe twinkling within. Photo: Wendy Goodman

As you walk around the piece, all the shapes shift and change. Here you can see that the spiral staircase is off-kilter, not like a regular one based on a straight column. “It’s a little bit like a spaceship,” Castle said. “It is a neat experience to be in there.” Photo: Wendy Goodman

“I insulated the interior with foam and a flokati rug so it deadens the outside sounds,” Castle explained. He added that “it would be a great place to take a nap.” Photo: Wendy Goodman

The football-shaped elliptical seats opposite the tree house all engage with one another like a family sitting around a dining-room table. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Gathering Momentum is another smaller piece in the show illustrating Castle’s fantastical technique. In the past, he has stated categorically that he is not interested in form following function, but rather he creates a new vocabulary with his sculptural furniture. “I like things that don’t look like what they are,” Castle told me. Here, taking a seat at the suggestion of a cantilevered desktop might just make you think differently about life within a room, where functional objects take on a whole new meaning. Photo: Wendy Goodman

First Look: Upstairs, Downstairs