Online Gallery of Untitled: The Art of James Castle

While Castle produced large bodies of work representing both places and people, the subjects were almost never combined and elicit different responses.

The rural and domestic scenes, through their realism and carefully drawn perspective, beckon us to inhabit the artist’s world. Meanwhile, the stylized figures in this gallery confront us with just how alien that world could appear. What do so many blank faces reveal about Castle? Do they indicate a sense of separation from those around him? These are natural questions, but their subject—the many ways Castle might have experienced life differently from us—misses a more important conclusion: that he was as comfortable working in abstraction as he was in realism. The distinction can be fine: a square-headed figure may confound us, while a gently battered triangle of construction paper is instantly recognizable as a red-winged blackbird. The ability to pull us in or to push us back with the slightest alterations of line is a marker of Castle’s talent, honed over a lifetime of self-directed practice.