Jordan Casteels Devan is viewable online
Jordan Casteel's "Devan" is viewable online Courtesy the New Museum
New York-based artist Jordan Casteel's Within Reach is currently hanging at the New Museum in New York City. Casteel's work is composed mainly of intimate portraits of Black and brown people in her life or whom she encounters around the city. Painted at a massive scale, Casteel's expressive pieces serve as a candid window into the lives of her subjects, their faces simmering with life just below the surface. When I first saw her work, I was immediately reminded of the paintings of Kerry James Marshall, Bisa Butler, and portrait queen Alice Neel.

An image from the show that stood out to me was "Devan," a painting originally included in her series of nudes of Black men in domestic spaces called Visible Man. Casteel's use of untraditional colors to render Devan's skin—cold blues and warm reddish-browns—speaks to the depths and variation of Black skin. And—of course—it brings to mind Juan's speech in Moonlight, In moonlight, Black boys look blue.

Her subject, Devan, stares openly at the viewer, seemingly aware of our gaze on his body, our intrusion on his space, our sussing out of his mental state. In an interview, Casteel said she started work on the series out of a recognition that "people were seeing clothing as a barrier to the humanity of the subjects that were being portrayed." And, here, Devan projects an openness, a sort of straightforward vulnerability that makes this painting compelling.

There's a 13-minute virtual tour of the show hosted by Casteel and curator Massimiliano Gioni, as well as an audio guide that allows you to get a more in-depth look at particular portraits. Within Reach will be up until September 1—don't miss it.

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