(American, b. 1989)
Oil on canvas.
54 x 74 inches.
Courtesy the Artist and Sargent’s Daughters, New York.
In this expressive painting entitled Jerome from a 2014 series of male portraits, Jordan Casteel poses several disruptive devices. The blue-grey color functions to problematize usual racial associations, perhaps in order to destigmatize blackness or make our perceptions more conscious. This disruption may work to amplify difference, if even momentarily making the subject seem foreign, even alien. Other works in the artist’s series depict male figures in other alternative colors. Casteel also challenges our expectations of portraits of black men through depicting the figure without clothing and reclining, much the way female figures are portrayed throughout history. Male figures are more familiarly depicted in active, stoic and regal postures. Combined with the domestic setting, this figure possesses affinities with Mickalene Thomas’ work in the middle of the wall to your left. Like Thomas’ figures, Jerome makes direct eye contact with the viewer. He is vulnerable and lounges on multiple colorful layers of crumpled bedding and blankets, the folds of which support a partially consumed bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon, perhaps contributing to a sense of comfort and confidence. Curiously, the graphic representation of a computer’s “on” button appears to be tattooed on the upper left shoulder of the figure.
Charlotte Lee ‘18