Chris Ofili Retrospective at The #NewMuseum

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Chris Ofili Retrospective at The #NewMuseum

If you waited until the last minute to see the Chris Ofili retrospective "Night and Day" at the New Museum, this is your official notice that the clock is clicking down until Sunday, the show's close. This is the first major exhibition of Ofili's work in the US, since 1999 when he was introduced to the New York art world in the infamous "Sensation" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Way back when, under the conservative shadow of the Guliani administration the Brooklyn Museum came under attack for hosting the works of the YBA, young British artists who had heralded in an brash new era of Post-(Post?)-Modernism.

Ofili's painting, "Madonna" made with elephant dung sparked the particular ire of then Catholic mayor of New York, Rudolf Guilani whose failed attempt at shuttering the museum only brought more crowds to the show. Ofili's subject matter has always and still does revolve around history, pop-culture, mythology, and personal identity.

Almost 20 years later, the young Brits (not so young anymore) have moved into various stages of their mature careers, some gracefully and others bombastically. Ofili is one of the former. If the "Madonna" is the only work that comes to mind when you think of him, then you really must get to this show. I'd say that it is the tip of the iceberg, but there are other really unexpected aspects to his work that one iceberg doesn't even conceal.

Ofili's early elephant manure paintings (early 90's - early aughts), display his virtuosity in spatial representation; layering of transparency over solid objects, as well as the speckled tiny obsessive dimples of paint. Ofili captures a Pollack-like depth in his work by abstracting space using decorative motifs and subject matter. The elephant dung is really just a catch phrase for this work, it neither feels formally important nor does is seem particularly titillating. While the dung held personal meaning for Ofili, both aesthetically and culturally, after his exhibition at the Venice Biennale, in which he used the colors of the Pan-African liberation flag, he leaves this style altogether never returning to it.

I'm skipping ahead to his latest works found on the forth floor, so I can return to and leave you on the third floor. His latest paintings are reminiscent of Matisse, the palette and formal character of the figures