Jordan Casteel

Harold

Hand-finished two-color lithograph with watercolor paint
Edition of 20
2017/2019
27 x 23 in.
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The edition is limited to one per person.

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About Artwork

Jordan Casteel’s print Harold employs the artist’s vibrant use of color and careful attention to composition. Brilliant yellow and orange, from an unknown light source, radiate warmth. The direct gaze of the two figures acknowledges the participation or viewpoint of the viewer who becomes enmeshed in the moment captured by the artist.

The print is based on a painting with the same name that Casteel produced in 2017, currently held in the Hill Collection, and exhibited that same year in her exhibition ‘Nights in Harlem’, 2017 at Casey Kaplan, New York.

Casteel paints from her own photographs of people she encounters, posing her subjects within their natural environments. Extending her subject matter outside of the home in The Studio Museum in Harlem Artist-in-Residence exhibition in 2015, Casteel aimed her lens at men she interacted with in Harlem, such as the visitor services liaison for the museum. For this exhibition, the artist’s subjects are captured at night – a time that commonly carries notions of fear and violence. Walking the neighborhood and scanning her surroundings, Casteel instinctively responds to social cues from an obliging nod to a mutual glance. The anonymous men who occupy the dark streets of Harlem become the subjects of the artist’s female gaze. From a group of friends sitting on the steps outside a bodega to a shop owner watching the passersby, Casteel replaces misperceptions with intimate portrayals of the black male identity.

Casteel translates the instantaneous images from her camera, or iPhone, into an underlying sketch layered with washes and broad brushstrokes. Line and gesture compound within her canvases with immediacy indicative of her process. Photographing her subjects for the first time at night caused a foreseen shift of light source in her images, changing her use of color as orange and yellow rays cast by obscured origins (such as an overhead streetlamp or a building interior) stream into view. These warm tones jut up against a cool palette, the opposing forces illuminating each figure. In one such instance, “Harold” (2017) sits outside selling laundry detergent. Backlit and positioned at the foreground of the composition, subject and viewer meet at eye level. Harold’s demeanor is calm. Casteel’s attempt to capture this sensibility through his undeviating gaze and material presence is laden with purpose.

– Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

About the Artist