The Arts Club of Chicago is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition Chris Ofili: Afrotranslinear from 28 September through 22 December 2010. This is the first exhibition of Ofili’s work in Chicago and the first major exhibition of his pencil drawings and watercolors. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view a large number of Ofili’s works on paper, many exhibited for the first time.
Ofili’s works on paper are fully realized works, and done concurrently with his painting and sculpture. According to Ofili, “it’s to do with things falling into place at the right time, in a painting or a drawing, and sometimes with a drawing you can be more relaxed” (from “Ekow Eshun interviews Chris Ofili” in Chris Ofili, Tate Publishing 2010). The exhibition is comprised of 116 works on paper created between 1995 and 2007. It concentrates on black and white graphite works from the artist’s early, almost abstract “afro heads,” to his intertwined figures, and on watercolors. These include a series of female portraits, the Afromuses; a selection of Afromuses (Couples); and two nine-part works, Afro Muses (The Unkissed Gardener) and Gardener. Ofili’s muse is the contemporary black woman and all her glorious countenances: lush, bejeweled, with elaborate hairstyles, and adorned in richly patterned clothing. The works elicit both a visceral and intellectual response, making the viewer complicit in the dance between the seducer and the seduced. The relationship between the sexes is a common thread throughout the exhibition.
Chris Ofili is one of the most acclaimed painters working today. His paintings and works on paper engage with the intersection between popular culture and high art, history, race, religion, society, and identity. As Chicago-based artist Kerry James Marshall says in his essay in the exhibition catalogue, “not only are [Ofili’s] pictures uncompromising in their highly stylized treatment of ‘Black’ figures, he is also relentless in his decorative and referential excesses.”
Ofili was born in Manchester, UK in 1968. He studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art, in London. He received the Turner Prize in 1998 and represented Great Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. Most recently, Tate Britain presented a mid-career survey of his work earlier this year. He has exhibited worldwide in solo and group exhibitions, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, and his work is included in the collections of many major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.