Chris Ofili. North Wales. 1996

Chris Ofili North Wales 1996

  • Not on view

Chris Ofili's large, vibrantly colored, and meticulously executed canvases incorporate tiny mosaiclike dots of paint and glitter, as well as small cut-outs from pornographic magazines and, most notoriously, lumps of elephant dung. A 1992 trip to Zimbabwe was a seminal experience for the artist, a British-born son of Nigerian parents, inspiring him to apply these unusual techniques and materials to motifs drawn from jazz and hip-hop, comic books, racial stereotypes, Catholicism (Ofili is a practicing Catholic), and African textiles. While some compositions are deliberately abstract, with patterns assuming a dazzling Op-art opulence, others show these patterns swarming around and within an iconic black figure. The combination of decorative style and social content is part of a deceptively playful exploration of issues related to black identity.

The four series of etchings Ofili has made to date reveal the sensitive, lyrical core of his art. Each series consists of ten prints inspired by a particular trip. On each trip, Ofili took along a set of copper etching plates and, working methodically, used a different abstract pattern obliquely related to his impressions of the specific place. Calling his project "an odd kind of tourism," he used cross-hatching for the first series, Barcelona, in 1992, followed by small dots for Berlin, concentric waves for New York, and diamond patterns for the North Wales prints shown here. The specific sites he visited there are noted at the bottom left of each plate.

Describing his work on these plates as "nourishing," Ofili has said: "It can take me to places within myself that are unfamiliar." While his obsessively drawn, allover patterns are clearly analogous to the decorative fields in his paintings, the small format and spare, repetitive black markings suggest a process that is more private and introspective.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 258.
Medium
Portfolio of ten etchings
Dimensions
Plate: 9 13/16 x 7 13/16" (24.9 x 19.9 cm); sheet: 14 15/16 x 11 5/16" (38 x 28.7 cm)
Credit
Gift of the Young Print Collectors of the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books
Object number
433.1999.1-10
Type
Portfolio
Department
Drawings and Prints

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.