Jordan Casteel’s Portraits of ‘Family’

A somewhat return to realism beginning, it seems, towards the end of the last millenium, after long-term, continuing experimentation with abstract and conceptual art 

 

 

 

 

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Untitled (Policeman), 2015, synthetic polymer paint on PVC panel with plexi frame.

    Kerry James Marshall, American born 1955. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

The artist is an autodidact when it comes to art.  He taught himself the Western and certain African ritual traditions.  He sees his work fully within the Western tradition in which he hopes to represent his people.

 

 

has brought forth a flush of figurative painters (US). 

 

Among these African-Americans.

 

 

 

Mural of a Philadelphia schoolgirl on a 6-story building in Philadelphia.  Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, 2019

Amy Sherald, American born 1973

 

 

Not that such figurative artists and realists have ever ceased working.  Their work has, with few exceptions, not been exhibited, curated, or brought into the collections of our art institutions since the abstract/conceptual giddiness began 100 years ago.

 

 

 

 

Jerome, oil on canvas, 2014.  Titus Kaphar, American born 1976.  Williams College Museum of Art from whose website this photo.

This painting is based on a mugshot the artist discovered while searching for his estranged father’s prison records.  He then found 97 mugshots of men with his father’s name and went on to make devotional sized images on gilded panels of some of these men.

 

 

 

Survivors of some of the most degrading practices of the North American civilization, and struggling still with the after-effects and permutations of these practices, 

 

 

that more and more African Americans artists are choosing figuration and realism can be seen as

 

 

the laying of claim to our long and fabulous Western traditions – the graphic arts, and sculpture – which form a record of the liberatory and self-defining possibilities afforded its peoples by this same civilization. 

 

 

 

 

Barack Hussein Obama, oil on canvas, 2018. 

Kehinde Wiley, American born 1977.  Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

 

 

 

All the more important for the paucity of the representation of minority creations on N. American museum walls, in their curatorial staffs or on their boards;

 

 

And a necessary, if insufficient, step in the long struggle of this people to pursue their own happiness. 

 

 

 

Jordan Casteel, American born 1989

from an exhibition at the New Museum, NY in 2020.

 

 

The artist uses very large format for her portraits of people in their environments. 

She refers to those she portrays as her family.  

 

 

 

Miles and Jojo, 2015, oil on canvas. 

Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020.  The artist’s brother and nephew.

 

 

 

The murder of Trayvon Martin, February 28, 2012, Sanford, Florida

 

The artist’s rendering of black men in intimate settings followed anguish at the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American high school student, by George Zimmerman. 

 

 

Zimmerman, without any objective threat posed by Martin, shot him dead and was acquitted the following year on the basis of a law, a survival and adaption from slavery times, which places a higher value on security and protection of property than on life (Stand Your Ground).  

 

This series, her earliest, she entitled Visible Man to counteract the degraded, caricatural view of African American men.

 

 

 

view of part of a gallery, New Musuem, NY

 

 

The artist wanted to depict African American males as they are in private.  She asked them to choose poses in which they felt safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerome, 2014, oil on canvas.  Private loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

Jireh, 2013, oil on canvas. Private loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

Jonathan, 2014, oil on canvas.  Private loan to the New Museum, NY, 2020

 

 

Jordan Casteel’s portraits are of people in her neighbourhood (Harlem, NY); on the subway; of her college friends; of street life; of her undergraduate students at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, NJ.

 

Her subjects include African immigrants to New York and members of the Latino (LatinX) community.

 

She works from photographs which she takes, sometimes in the hundreds, of every person or scene portrayed.  Many of her subjects she does not know.  Except for her Subway series, her portrayals are rendered with the co-operation of her subjects whom she comes to know and who co-operate with her photographs.

 

The artist has said that she starts with the eyes and then the head of her subjects.  These ‘ground’ the painting as the life of these, her ‘family’, has grounded her  work.

 

The colour palette she uses are a symbolic rendering of the rich diversity of the coloured population of the United States.

 

 

 

Charles, 2016, oil on canvas.  Courtesy of the artist on exhibit at the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

As to who these people are: 

they are the ones who keep the cities running.  Whose jobs are the least well paid.  Who, as immigrants, make significant contributions to the economies of their native countries with the tithes they return to their families.

 

The ones invisible politically, except when it is time to vote. The ones invisible, very often, individually outside their own communities.

 

 

The Subway

 

 

Her Turn, 2018, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

Takedown, oil on canvas, 2018. Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Lean, 2018, oil on canvas. Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Within Reach, 2018, oil on canvas.  Private collection loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

The artist has been at work less than 10 years.  It is interesting that, as her own grip has strengthened,  so have the size, strength and centrality of the hands of her subjects.  And feet also have clearer definition.

 

 

 

Harlem inside and out

 

 

 

Stanley, 2016, oil on canvas.  Private collection loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

 

 

MegaStarBrand’s Louie and A-Thug, 2017.  Private collection loaned to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Ourlando, 2018, oil on canvas.  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on loan to the New Museum, NY 2020

 

Binyam, 2018, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020.

 Helina Girma, co-owner of the Ethiopian restaurant, Binyam, in Harlem with her brothers.

 

Shirley (Spa Boutique2Go), 2018, oil on canvas.  Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Tito, 2017, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Harold, 2017, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY, 2020

 

 

 

Yvonne and James, 2017, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Fallou, 2018, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

The Baayfalls, 2017, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum, NY, in 2020

Fallou Wadje, a Senegalese-born clothing designer with a fellow member of the Baye Fall, a Sufi Muslim order 

 

 

 

Medinilla, Wanda and Annelise, 2019, oil on canvas.  Private loan to the New Museum, NY

 

 

 

 

Serwaa and Amoakohene, 2019, oil on canvas.  Private loan to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Jahi, 2019, oil on canvas.  Loaned by a private collector to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Cowboy E, Sean Cross, and Og Jabar, 2017, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

Kimah, 2019, oil on canvas.  Private loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

Jenna, 2019, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, SC to the New Museum, NY in 2020

 

 

 

Conseula, 2019, oil on canvas. Private collection on loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

Noelle, 2019, oil on canvas. Private collection on loan to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

Lourdes and Karina, 2019, oil on canvas.  Loaned by a private collection to the New Museum in 2020

 

 

 

partial view of the gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Jordan Casteel’s Portraits of ‘Family’

  1. It is fun to see a black artist take up the formulas of realism to assert his own identity.
    But it must be recognized that non-figurative or conceptual art had sunk into a great “anything”.
    I hope that the talent of the artist presented here is recognized at its true value.

    1. I agree with you.

      Sometimes I think that the emptiness of our concepts in the arts is connected with the subversion of our democracies into forms which are not democratic and connected with growing existential dangers to the earth herself.

      I haven’t seen where digital and video arts have begun to replace the fullness of our figurative tradition either. So this development with these young and middle-aged people is hopeful.

      Sarah

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