ONE OF FALL’S MOST ANTICIPATED MUSEUM SHOWS is “Night and Day,” Chris Ofili’s forthcoming exhibition at the New Museum on Oct. 29. His first solo museum show in the United States will be presented on all three gallery floors and survey his entire career.

Exploring race and gender issues through cultural and historical references, Ofili’s vast and varied oeuvre is both provocative and celebratory. More than 30 paintings, numerous drawings and several sculptures will be on view.

artforum sept. 2014The museum describes the selection as “meticulously executed, elaborate artworks that meld figuration, abstraction, and decoration.”

Artforum’s September issue, the ad-heavy Fall Preview edition, features a write up about the exhibition by Thomas J. Lax, who recently left the Studio Museum in Harlem to join the Museum of Modern Art. Lax’s brief appears on the opening spread of the magazine’s Previews section which looks at 40 shows opening between September and December across the globe.

Lax begins by recalling Ofili’s checkered reception in New York in previous years. In 1999, his Virgin Mary painting featuring elephant dung was included in the Brooklyn Museum’s group exhibition “Sensation.” When then-Mayor Giuliani learned about the work he was so incensed he temporarily cut city funding to the museum. Ofili bounced back in 2005 when the Studio Museum presented “Afro Muses 1995-2005,” a series of 181 watercolors he had painted during the previous decade, an exhibition Lax describes as “showstopping.”

“The local response [to Ofili’s work] has embodied all the necessary repulsion, romance, and awe one might expect from a contemporary epic.” — Thomas J. Lax, Artforum

“Night and Day” is accompanied by a catalog that not only considers Ofili’s work, but does so through the writings of his fellow artists Glenn Ligon and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lax notes.

“These pieces and perspectives narrate several Ofilis: the colorist who works in restricted palettes, at times Garveyite red, black and green, at others blue monochromes or Favist ochres, purples and greens; the scatologist who uses shit as a sculptural base and pictorial ground, handling paint both to build up and denude his paintings surfaces; and the mime of machismo and voyeurism who draws on imagery from blaxploitation, Marvel comics, porn, and postcolonial African photography,” he writes.

Born in Manchester, England, Ofili lives and works in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 1998, he won the Turner Prize, the prestigious annual award honoring a British visual artist under the age of 50. Ofili was only 30 at the time and the first black artist to be so recognized.

“Night and Day” is on view at the New Museum in New York from Oct. 29, 2014 to Feb. 1, 2015, when the exhibition travels to the Aspen Art Museum. CT


Artforum, September 2014 | Previews, “Chris Ofili: Night and Day” by Thomas J. Lax, pages 194-195


“Triple Beam Dreamer,” 2001–02 (acrylic, oil, leaves, glitter, polyester resin, map pins, and elephant dung on linen) by Chris Ofili | Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York/London, and Victoria Miro, London. © Chris Ofili


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.