The initial response to Jordan Casteel’s “Nights in Harlem” is a case study in how an exhibition’s reception can be overdetermined by an immediately preceding exhibition. By dint of their subject matter, her larger-than-life paintings of black men she met on the streets of Harlem inevitably recall the recent survey of portraits by Alice Neel of her neighbors in Spanish Harlem and on the Upper West Side, organized by Hilton Als at David Zwirner gallery. This has prompted critics to equate Casteel with Neel, more out of reflex than reflection. Most prominently, Jerry Saltz proclaimed Casteel “Alice Neel in embryo.” No doubt, the label was intended as laudatory, but it is ultimately demeaning, in much the same way that the framing of Oscar Murillo as the second coming of Jean-Michel Basquiat has been demeaning. It assures the market that this new package contains a familiar product,
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.
Not registered for artforum.com?
SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*
* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.