Night and Day
by contemporary English Artist Chris Ofili
is now exhibiting at the New Museum
The only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to showcasing contemporary art. The New Museum it’s in one of the most artsy NYC neighborhoods and sharing the same avenue with one of the coolest landmarks, the 190 Bowery building.
The Naked Spirit Of Captain Shit And The Legend Of The Black (Left) and Afrodizzia (Right)
Ofili’s colorful vibrant and intricate paintings are best recognize by their clusters of painted dots inspired by Aboriginal Australian art, glitter, collage images, map pins and (wait for it but please do not feel disgust) elephant waste; dung, fecal matter, however you want to call it-which Ofili normally uses as a polish or as pedestals for the canvas. Ofili explained in a past interview that this served as representation of a symbolic connection to the earth.
“Somehow it makes the painting feel more relaxed, instead of being pinned upon the wall like it’s being crucified.”-Chris Ofili
In 1992 he was granted a traveling scholarship to Zimbabwe
. During this trip Ofili gained profound inspiration from African music, religion, fabrications, and culture. This is where he began experimenting with elephant waste as a medium. Ofili’s other sources of inspiration derive from the bible, blacksploitation
films, hip hop culture and the English artist William Blake
Saint Sebastian_Chris Ofili
Aside from being chosen as Britain’s Art ambassador for the 50th Venice Biennial
in 2003, along with a grand retrospective at Britain’s Tate museum
, the artist hasn’t receive the recognition he’s well deserve in the New York Art scene. Fortunately or unfortunately, (as any publicity is good publicity)
Ofili is mostly recognized from the controversy generated by the Sensation Exhibition
of 1999 at the Brooklyn Museum
. One that caused a major uproar involving then, mayor Giuliani.The City of New York brought a court case against the Brooklyn Museum, claiming the exhibition was “sick” and “disgusting” and threatened to cut back the annual grant given to the museum with possible eviction. The director of the Brooklyn Museum, Arnold L. Lehman
charged back with a federal lawsuit against the mayor
claiming violation of the First Amendment, Freedom of speech
. The museum won the battle.
The exhibition’s name “Night and Day” borrowed from Cole Porter’s famous song with the same title emphasizes how Ofili’s aesthetic has evolved through out the times. His different art periods are categorized through out three floors of the museum.
No Woman No Cry (left) and The Holy Virgin Mary (right) _ Chris Ofili
The museum encourages visitors to start through the 2nd floor, where his early work from the 90s are showcased, including No woman no Cry, (Left) a piece that helped him win the Turner prize and described as the “modern Pieta” by the Financial Times. It represents a portrait of Doreen Lawrence, who fought to bring justice for the death of her son, Stephen Lawrence.
The Holy Virgin Mary (Right) the main painting surrounding all the chaos of the artist’s career, depicts a black Madonna with a clump of elephant waste in representation of her bare breast encircled by a cluster of pornographic images.
The 3rd floor is made up of The Blue Rider series
, a collection of nine paintings with a midnight glistening over tone inspired by Der Blaue Reiter
. The paintings have hidden magic like details waiting to be discover. A little tilt of the head and knee bending will give you a different perspective. Similar to the game cards with lenticular printing.
The Raising of Lazarus (Left) Ovid Destiny (Right) _ Chris Ofili
His latest work on the 4th floor and the entirety of the room space made me feel as if I was in dark whimsical fairy tale. The dimmed lighting and blossomed painted walls filled with beautiful vivid colorful paintings reminded me of Matisse’ The Dance I and II paintings.
Ovid Actaeon_Chris Ofili
This series shares similarities with Matisse’ work in their composition, flowing silhouettes reminiscent of primitive art and the used of fauvist color pallet evokes a sense of sensuality and freedom.
Other paintings in the room reminded me of Picasso’s blue period, the use of blue and bluish-green monochromatic tones gave the paintings a somber and melancholy feel.
Lime Bar (Left) Cocktail Serenader (Center) and Frogs in the Shade (Right)
The Healer, one of my favorite paintings, kept grabbing my attention from the moment I first saw it at the New Museum’s annual Halloween bash. Every time I came across from it, I saw it with new eyes. Like magic, different shapes appeared with each blink of the eye, as if the artist was challenging the basic task of seeing things.
The Healer_ Chris Ofili
This makes Ofili’s first major solo exhibition in the United States. The retrospect showcases over thirty of Ofili’s paintings, a grand assortment of drawings and several sculpture pieces.
The show will be on display till January 25th. Plan your visit to the New Museum soon and make sure to cross over and check out all the cool street art posted up all over the 190 Bowery building. Now that sounds like a rad Artsy trip.