Jordan Casteel Is Making You Look

Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

04-Jordan-CasteelThere’s a thing that happens when you look at certain paintings by the young portrait artist Jordan Casteel. You take note of her subject, usually a black man. You look again, closer this time, and only on second glance do you recognize that his skin tone doesn’t actually resemble skin at all, but is instead blue, or green, or pink, or orange, or chalky white. You may question why you didn’t notice at first. You may marvel at Casteel’s clever palette, her ability to rationalize figure against ground, to hide a person the color of, say, the Hulk, in plain sight. If you’re thinking the way she hopes you’re thinking, you may wonder why you were so quick to clock his race. Maybe you wonder what other judgments you jumped to in the process.

“Which I love!” Casteel says when I describe it as a sort of magic-eye trick. “That was very intentional.” The artist, 29, is lanky and long-limbed, with a boyish haircut and the easy, funky style—’80s jeans, white Nikes, colorful socks, oversize glasses—of a very cool fifth grader. We’re sitting side by side on a sofa on the lower level of the Casey Kaplan gallery, where this fall Casteel mounted a much buzzed-about exhibition of paintings, “Nights in Harlem.” “I was interested in the fact that people were going, ‘Oh, you’re painting black men.’ And then they would be like: ‘Oh, actually, he’s green.’ I loved witnessing the externalization of that internal process.”

More here.