“Benyam” (2018) by Jordan Casteel

 

DENVER-BORN Jordan Casteel‘s hometown museum is hosting her first major museum show. “Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze,” an exhibition of nearly 30 paintings, opens at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in February 2019. Recognized for her large-scale painted portraits of black men, Casteel lives and works in Harlem, a neighborhood that has been particularly inspiring to her practice and where she has identified and connected with many of her subjects.

Casteel has depicted male relatives, members of her community, and figures from Harlem. More recently, she has broadened her subjects, painting storefronts, subway scenes, sidewalk still lifes, and local business owners. She has also introduced images of women. The forthcoming exhibition will feature works made between 2014 and 2018, including new paintings on view for the first time.

“Benyam” (2018), shown above, reflects the direction of her new work. Made earlier this year, the painting portrays the matriarch of a family-owned Ethiopian restaurant Casteel frequently patronizes. She photographs her subjects in their environments and then paints from the documentary image. Layered narrative details define the painting, from the manner in which the subjects have fashioned themselves to the specificity of the restaurant interior where the items hanging on the wall are imbued with importance given their prominent, public placement. Similar to all of her other subjects, the three individuals in the painting fix their eyes directly on the viewer.

“Casteel has the power to capture our attention by posing her sitters so that they often look you directly in the eye, leading to deeper understandings of the intent behind the artwork,” said Rebecca R. Hart, said in a statement. The curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at DAM organized the exhibition.

She added: “By titling the exhibition Returning the Gaze, we acknowledge the levels of engagement within Casteel’s art: she gazes at the subjects, who often look out at the viewer with inviting eyes, which then prompts us to think about the sitter and consider the empathy that the artist has for the people that she paints.”

“By titling the exhibition Returning the Gaze, we acknowledge the levels of engagement within Casteel’s art: she gazes at the subjects, who often look out at the viewer with inviting eyes, which then prompts us to think about the sitter and consider the empathy that the artist has for the people that she paints.” — Curator Rebecca R. Hart

Casteel was an Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2015-16) and soon after joined Casey Kaplan Gallery. In early 2017, “Jordan Casteel: Harlem Notes” was on view at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C. “Jordan Casteel: Nights in Harlem,” her inaugural exhibition at Casey Kaplan, was presented last fall.

The DAM presentation includes the publication of Casteel’s first catalog. The fully illustrated volume will feature an essay by Hart, along with contributions from Isolde Brielmaier and Greg Tate, writings that will consider the possibilities of portraiture and the role of “brotherhood, visibility and place” in the artist’s work.

“The intent of the paintings from my early works is to expose my vision of black men as a sister, daughter, friend and lover,” Casteel said in the statement. “That perspective is one full of empathy and love. I see the humanity and, in turn, I want audiences to engage with them as fathers, sons, brothers, cousins—as individuals with their own unique stories to share.” CT

 

LEARN MORE about Jordan Casteel on her website

 

TOP IMAGE: JORDAN CASTEEL, Benyam,” 2018 (oil on canvas, 90 x 78 inches). | Komal Shah & Gaurav Gang Collection. Image courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. © Jordan Casteel

 


JORDAN CASTEEL, “Miles and Jojo,” 2015 (oil on canvas, 32 x 72 inches). | Collection of Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi. Image courtesy Sargent’s Daughers, New York. © Jordan Casteel

 
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