Thursday, November 08, 2007

Devil's Pie - Chris Ofili - Home sweet Home

Trinidad's enigma to the Art World

In Manhattan's Chelsea district at the David Zwirner Gallery, Chris Ofili solo exhibition, Devil's Pie is closed after its opening in September, 2007. Mr. Ofili showed a body of work which incorporated life sized sculptures, large oils and smaller framed drawings. One Art critic from the clip says that his paintings speak for themselves, and that his creditability as a painter is over. Harsh words indeed.

With his hand-held camera and clumsy focused range, the reporter James Kalme gives a formal and bland summary of the exhibited pieces which are placed in a large spacious white gallery. These include life-sized sculptures like the big belly black devil wining on a Red woman to your left. But one would like to think that Jeff Koons had some part of it by the highly polished veneer.

Yet, patrons at the opening looked horrified or puzzled as if the sculptures were of a tribal courting from the deep dark jungle, or a monster from the black lagoon. They are what they are, Trinidadians playing mas and anyone not familiar with the festival could clearly misinterpret it. Or was this a sensational ploy to shock his audience?

If anything, Mr. Ofili's flaw may be his close association with fellow painter, Peter Doig. It is clear that some of his large works look unfinished, and appear to be loose washes similar to Mr. Doig's weaker StudioFilm posters. It may be just a mirror of Mr. Doig, for now.

Yet, there is something sensual, mysterious, subliminal and loving about them. In the simple outlines, in the rich palette, and in the vivacious female and male forms that lurk behind a limp branch looking to brush. You just have to see a Black label wall painting of the silhouetted women to understand why. His influences, and where his ideas are lifted from. Make no excuse. The painter may be aroused by his own executions, they are highly and sexually charged.

These paintings and sculptures are not about New York or London, but rather of Trinidad and Tobago in Mr. Ofili's integration of its rich untapped culture. What is dishearting are that many local Art goers in Trinidad and Tobago are not privy to his work.

The future of Mr. Ofili is not confined to a genre of paintings or sculpture, these are just trials. Where is should step into is the world of film, to the moving image in high technicolor of sex.

See a preview of the show
courtesy of James Kalm

- an idiom for sex
Devils - A carnival character from Trinidad and Tobago
Red woman - A fair skin black female
Wining - A dance native to the West Indies

Chris Ofili: Devil's Pie
September 21 to November 3, 2007
David Zwirner Gallery
525 W. 19th Street. New York

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