Yvonne and James (2017)

Portraits That More Than Meet the Eye

Jordan Casteel in the NY Times. 

Jordan Casteel’s vibrant colors capture the spirit and humanity of her subjects: black and brown people who have often been excluded from art institutions.

Jordan Casteel’s exhibition “Within Reach” is currently hanging on the second floor of the temporarily shuttered New Museum. The situation is somewhat paradoxical, given that the show’s most prominent theme is closeness — something that’s been severely disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Yet that also makes it a good time to look at Ms. Casteel’s work however we can — in a digital walk-through and in the catalog — and think about the vision of community it offers.

This is the artist’s first solo museum show in New York and it includes works from her noted series “Visible Man” (2013-14) and “Nights in Harlem” (2017). In large, expressive portraits, Ms. Casteel celebrates the people around her, black and brown folk who have historically been excluded from art institutions. Her subjects present themselves to her, and to us, posing as they want to be seen in a way that brings to mind Malians in the 1950s sitting for the photographer Seydou Keïta. They invite us into their worlds, offering the audience a privileged view.