The Audacity of Art
To ban or not to ban? That was the question a decade ago when the Brooklyn Museum of Art exhibited works by a young British artist named CHRIS OFILI who mixed traditional African motifs with popular culture, particularly the urban experience and hip hop. Inspired by Warhol, Matisse, Rousseau, and even Snoop Dog, CHRIS often uses his canvases to challenge black stereotypes, 1970’s exploitation films and even comic book superheroes. But, for many, CHRIS work was either deeply flawed or the intersection where paint and culture collided.
Born in Manchester, in 1968, CHRIS attended the Royal College of Art in London and even studied pre-historic cave paintings in Zimbabwe. Together those experiences formed the foundation for CHRIS’s dramatic interpretations on canvas which some deem offensive at times. That was over a decade ago, and today CHRIS’s work is more nuanced and sophisticated.
The Turner Prize winner (1998) has held successful exhibits from New York to Berlin and from London to Moscow, and he represented Great Britain at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 along with architect David Adjaye. I’ve also noticed his work popping up in interior design lately, so maybe the world has finally accepted Avedon’s theory that “if art isn’t controversial, then it’s failed and creative people were put here to teach us all something about our past, present and future.”
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