Jordan Casteel’s first solo New York City museum show is simultaneously intimate and anonymous. The exhibition’s title comes from Within Reach (2019), Casteel’s painting of strangers on the subway, in which one of the father’s arms drapes tenderly over the boy who scrambles into his lap, while the other, to regain his balance, leans on the lap of another family member beside. It is a tangle of limbs, the boy’s face only legible in oblique three quarters view, a testament to the shared lexicon of private gestures and the closeness that can be carved out in public spaces.
“Within Reach” spotlights Casteel as a master of color and texture—a flowery couch cushion, a sequined jacket, cheetah-print shoes, dappled paint on a pair of sweatpants; a painter of flesh, particularly Black flesh—lilac, plum, turquoise, silvery blues, hues that should be alien to skin but, under Casteel’s expert brush, are difficult to imagine any other way; and a lover of light—the fiery oranges and yellows of Harold (2017), the pink-and-yellow indoor incandescence of Shirley (Spa Boutique2go) (2018). In Stanley (2016), made with a restrained palette, a Black man, painted in grayscale, is offset by the blaring advertising imagery of bright orange Arizona cans; he sits before a #RiseUpOctober poster, a black and white grid of lives taken by police violence in New York. Grids, the ultimate symbol of impersonal order, are bent under Casteel’s lines and made intimate by how she chooses to populate them: a funerary bouquet on a street corner of a gridded New York City; the papered posters in the window of the salon of Amina (2017); the clothing display behind the dapper figure in Ourlando (2018).
Jordan Casteel, Within Reach, 2019. Oil on canvas, 35 x 60 in (88.9 x 152.4 cm). The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection. Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York