David Zwirner is pleased to present Afro Margin, an exhibition of eight pencil drawings by Chris Ofili. This is the artist's second exhibition at the gallery. His 2007 debut, Devil's Pie, was an expansive exhibition uniting his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking, and graphite drawing.
To accompany the exhibition, Radius Books/David Zwirner will publish Chris Ofili: Afro Margin, a limited edition catalogue of 500, signed and numbered by the artist. The catalogue includes a poem by Inua Ellams, a poet, writer, teacher, and performer based in London and an essay by Cameron Shaw, a New Yorkbased writer.
Begun in 2004, while Ofili was still living in London, the Afro Margin series continued after he moved to Trinidad in 2005, and was finally completed in 2007. Known primarily for his bold, large-scale paintings, these intimate drawings reveal Ofili to be a master draughtsman. In this exquisite series, Ofili employs his distinguished "afro heads," a signature motif he began working with in the early 1990s. Here the "margin"–created by darkened "afro heads" piled vertically into columns and varying in size–suggests gothic towers and aboriginal totems. With each work, Ofili started by consciously considering the width of the column, discovering and breaking the tension of the blank page. As the series progressed, conceptions of blackness also figured as a way to understand the margin. Moving transformed this idea, as he left a metropolitan center–London–for a place on the fringe of cultural activity–Trinidad. Formally, however, the series was not affected by the changes in the landscape. Unlike much of his other work, he tried to confine the relationship to the structure of the idea. As Cameron Shaw states in the catalogue essay, "Ultimately, the significance is in the arrangement . . . Like an automatic drawing, notebook doodle, or physical meditation, his intention was to disappear into the action, while simply maintaining awareness of its natural direction."