Jordan Casteel: Within Reach
Jordan Casteel
New Museum

Jordan Casteel, Noelle, 2019. Oil on canvas, 78 x 60 in (198.1 x 152.4 cm). Rennie Collection, Vancouver. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York


The New Museum presents “Jordan Casteel: Within Reach,” an exhibition of work by New York–based artist Jordan Casteel (b. 1989, Denver, Colorado), on view in the Museum’s Second Floor Gallery from February 19 to May 24, 2020. Bringing together nearly forty paintings spanning her career, including works from her celebrated series Visible Man (2013–14) and Nights in Harlem (2017), along with recent portraits of her students at Rutgers University-Newark, this is Casteel’s first solo museum exhibition in New York City.

In her large-scale oil paintings, Casteel has developed a distinctive figurative language permeated by the presence of her subjects, who are typically captured in larger-than-life depictions that teem with domestic details and psychological insights.

Portraying people from communities in which she has lived and worked—including former classmates at Yale, where she earned an MFA; street vendors and neighbors near her home in Harlem; and her own students at Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey—Casteel insists upon the ordinary, offering scenes with both the informality of a snapshot and the frontality of an official portrait. In these richly colorful works, Casteel draws upon ongoing conversations on portraiture that encompass race, gender, and subjectivity, connecting her practice to the legacy of artists like Alice Neel, Faith Ringgold, and Bob Thompson, among others. Casteel’s studies in anthropology and sociology also inform her works, which can often be read as a reflection on the presentation of the self in everyday life and as an investigation of the relationships that tie together intimacy and distance, familiarity and otherness.

Casteel’s subjects, who are frequently black men looking directly at the viewer, are self-possessed and casually posed, but, as they stare into the distance, they also seem to ponder questions about masculinity, class, belonging, and displacement. In the exchange of gazes between the sitters, the artist, and the viewers, her paintings blur impulses and aspirations to compose a nuanced portrait of daily life in the US.

Jordan Casteel, Joe and Mozel (Pompette Wines), 2017. Oil on canvas, 90 x 78 in (228.6 x 198.1 cm). Private collection. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York


Jordan Casteel, Jiréh, 2013. Oil on canvas, 72 x 52 in (182.9 x 132.1 cm). Collection Jody Robbins. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York