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ARTIST NAME: Chris Ofili

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Chris Ofili
Born 1968, Manchester, England
Lives and works in London

With references as diverse as traditional African art, images from popular culture, and hip-hop music, Chris Ofili’s paintings explore contemporary black urban experience. Ofili’s intricately layered works combine bead-like dots of paint, inspired in part by cave paintings in Zimbabwe, with collaged images from popular magazines and such materials as glitter and map pins. Since 1992 the artist has also included dried elephant dung acquired from the London Zoo among his materials. While alluding generally to his African heritage, Ofili deliberately misquotes the traditional ritual significance of dung in order to broaden the viewer’s interpretation of this material beyond its cultural meaning. Combined with his parodies of 1970s black exploitation movies, comic book super heroes, and "gangsta" rap music, Ofili’s work addresses a complex matrix of issues that challenge black stereotypes.

Chris Ofili’s paintings have been exhibited in important traveling group exhibitions, including Brilliant! New Art from London, with venues at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (1995-96); About Vision: New British Painting in the 1990s, which opened at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1996) and traveled to Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich (1997), and Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (1998); Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, London (1997) and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (1998); and Dimensions Variable, which was organized by the British Council and traveled to many venues in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, including Helsinki City Art Museum (1997Ð98); Stockholm Royal Academy of Free Arts, St. Petersburg Russian Museum, Gallery Zacheta, Warsaw, and Prague National Gallery of Modern Art (1998). Since 1991 Ofili’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at galleries in England, New York, and Berlin, including Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York (1995) and Victoria Miro Gallery, London (1996). In 1998 Ofili received the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize.

1987-88 Thameside College of Technology, London

1988-91 Chelsea School of Art, London

1992 Hochschule der Kunst, Berlin

1991-93 Royal College of Art, London

Selected Further Reading:
Southampton City Art Gallery and Serpentine Gallery, London. Chris Ofili (1998). Exhibition catalogue, text by Lisa G. Corrin and Godfrey Worsdale.

Newsome, Rachel. “Afrodaze: Chris Ofili.” Dazed and Confused, no. 48 (November 1998): 75-80.

Buck, Louisa. “Openings: Chris Ofili.” Artforum 36, no. 1 (September 1997): 112-13.

Myers, Terry R. “Chris Ofili, Power Man.” art/text, no. 58 (August-October 1997): 36-39.

Morgan, Stuart. “The Elephant Man.” Frieze, no. 15 (March/April 1994): 40-43.


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