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opening tonight at the Berkeley Museum: James Castle


The exhibition “James Castle: A Retrospective”, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be on view at the Berkeley Art Museum February 3rd to April 25th, 2010. Until 2000 Castle’s work was only known to museum curators, art dealers, and collectors in the Pacific Northwest. The Philadelphia Museum’s comprehensive retrospective in 2008/2009 was Castle’s first.

Over the course of his life, James Castle (1899-1977) produced a body of work that is as varied and immense as any self-taught American artist of the last century. Castle devoted his quiet life to making small art objects, drawings and books painted, drawn and constructed from used materials such as discarded milk cartons, matchboxes, chimney soot, his own saliva and colors squeezed from wet tissue paper. Much of his paper ephemera probably came to him through his postmaster parents.

Raised in rural Idaho and by all accounts deaf since birth, Castle’s life was one of profound isolation. He attended a school for the deaf as a child, yet was dismissed as “uneducable,” never learning to read, write, sign, or lip-read. Castle retreated to the family farm, which became 3 different locales throughout his life, where he would begin to create a singular artistic language of shapes, figures, landscapes, and text to begin to communicate with and make sense out of the world around him.

February 3, 2010   2 Comments