Chris Ofili: Paradise Lost



ISBN: 9781941701829 Category:

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro


In 2017, Chris Ofili photographed chain-link fences throughout the island of Trinidad in order to explore notions of beauty, community, liberation, and constraint. This series of arresting images-“pocket photography,” as described by the artist-is the first body of photography ever published by Ofili. Through these entrancing black-and-white photographs, the artist engages with the diverse sources that inspired his critically acclaimed Paradise Lost exhibition at David Zwirner, New York in the fall of 2017.

Since moving to Trinidad in 2005, Ofili has continued to engage with the surrounding environment and culture, which has found its way into many of his colorful paintings. In these deceivingly simple black-and- white photographs, he captures a wide cross section of Trinidad as he highlights the encounter between natural and man-made settings, and the different aesthetic possibilities each brings out in the other. In focusing on a ubiquitous and seemingly unremarkable piece of equipment, Ofili is able to comment on our interactions with space and each other, using a near- universal subject as the fence slices the sky, melds into a tree, frames a basketball game, or reveals an opening.

In a new essay by the critically acclaimed author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World (2016), Joshua Jelly-Schapiro charts the history of chain-link fences; focusing on a selection of Ofili’s photographs, he then begins to explore what this imagery tells us about Trinidad in particular and the Caribbean as a whole. These two essays-one visual, the other literary-open onto a whole new set of interpretive possibilities for this groundbreaking artist.

Additional information

Weight 272 g
Dimensions 16 x 19.5 cm
Publisher name David Zwirner Books
Publication date 1 December 2018
Number of pages 96
Format Paperback / softback
Contributors Text by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro
Dimensions 16 x 19.5 cm
Weight 272 g


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Born in 1968 in Manchester, England, Chris Ofili received his BFA from the Chelsea School of Art, London in 1991 and his MFA from the Royal College of Art, London in 1993. In 2005, the artist joined David Zwirner, where he has had two solo exhibitions at the gallery in New York. Ofili rose to prominence in the 1990s for his complex and playful multilayered paintings, which he bedecked with a signature blend of resin, glitter, collage, and, often, elephant dung. His recent works-vibrant, symbolic, and frequently mysterious-draw upon the lush landscapes and local traditions of the island of Trinidad. Employing a diverse range of aesthetic and cultural sources, including, among others, Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation films, Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli, and modernist painting, Ofili's work investigates the intersection of passion, identity, and representation. Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, a geographer and writer, is the author of Island People (2016) and the co-editor of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas (2016). His work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Harper's, Artforum, and The Nation, among many other publications. He teaches at New York University and lives in Manhattan, but spends as much time as possible on other islands.