Modernism Museum Mount Dora debuts with Acclaimed Collection of Esherick & Castle

For Public Release:  October 1, 2013

The public will soon be privy to a unique and expansive collection of Modernist art by some of the most iconic and influential American masters of the craft.  A private collection, decades in the making, debuts at a new museum to open this fall.

Mount Dora, Florida, a fine art and craft community, is the backdrop for the Modernism Museum Mount Dora, to open Sunday, October 6, 2013.

The museum’s first exhibition entitled, Wharton to Wendell, offers visitors an opportunity to gain an appreciation of the fine artists who saw the potential for beauty in utilitarian objects.

Wharton Esherick, considered the Dean of American Craftsmen for his leadership in developing nontraditional designs, has been referred to as the link between the Arts and Crafts Movement and the resurgent interest in furniture making and design in the Postwar era. His celebrated Spiral Stair, around which architect George Howe created the Pennsylvania Hill House exhibit for the 1940 World’s Fair, is the centerpiece of the collection.  Visitors will also see a rare series of Esherick sculptures, Andante to Nocturne, as well as the newly discovered 1929 DeSilver Table made from walnut and exotic African Padauk.

Wendell Castle, eminent furniture designer and sculptor who has been called the Father of the American Studio Art Movement, celebrated his 80th  birthday in 2012 with a series of exhibitions in esteemed museums such as Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, Connecticut), Friedman Benda (New York City, New York), Barry Friedman Ltd (New York City, New York) and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, (Louisville, Kentucky). His famed Stool Sculpture will captivate museum guests, as it is the piece that validated Castle’s assertion that practical objects can be works of art.  In 1959, Castle entered this carving into a juried art show and when it was favorably received, he admitted that it was actually a stool, hence elevating the design of furniture to an art form.  Other Castle pieces in the collection include his Bronze Angel Chair, and the engaging, Tick Tock Kick Clock.

Prominently displayed will be Castle’s largest work to date which is slated to be his most famous piece, New Environment, an installation of stack-laminated pieces spanning two-stories. Inviting dreamers to imagine, Castle incorporates seating pieces, a table, a lamp, and a spiral staircase leading to a nest resembling a tree house.

Subsequent exhibitions at Modernism Museum Mount Dora will showcase pieces from Sam Maloof, George Nakashima, Arthur Espenet Carpenter and Albert Paley, all leaders in their field who shaped the movement and continue to influence the artists who follow them.  The museum’s permanent Wharton Esherick collection will juxtapose the master’s work with that of his successors, inspiring visitors to better understand and enjoy the craft.

The museum also offers an audio tour to enhance the visitor experience by providing insights into the artists creative processes and the connection of the aesthetic to the functional -- allowing them to gain a more powerful appreciation of the collection and the genre. Through a generous donation, the museum will offer access to the archived collection of Modernism Magazine to students and scholars through the Modernism Institute.  The museum’s retail store will offer related items for sale.

“The Modernism Museum Mount Dora is doing something that has never been done before,” says Executive Director and Curator of the Wharton Esherick Museum, Paul Eisenhauer.  “It provides an opportunity for people to interpret the world around them and the objects in it in an entirely different way.”

Dan Saal