Born in 1968 in Manchester, England, to Nigerian parents, Chris Ofili graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 1993. His distinctive and intensely colorful visual style unites the worlds of kitsch, hip-hop music, decorative art, Pop Art, blaxploitation films, the London Zoo, and the Zimbabwe plains. He counts American artist David Hammons, also represented in the Walker collection, among his major influences, but his work has been linked to sources as diverse as William Blake, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Judy Chicago, Andy Warhol, West African textiles, Matopos cave paintings, and the visual culture of psychedelia.
Third Eye Vision is a kaleidoscopic painting of color and abstract patterns. Its visual elements are distinctive to the work of this self-described “hip-hop artist.” The richly layered, hallucinogenic surface combines pointillist patterns with magazine cutouts and glitter with glow-in-the-dark bits of plastic. All of this rests upon Ofili’s signature pieces of decorated and varnished elephant dung, which the artist uses as a comment on nature, heritage, and the art world. The third eye at the center of the painting calls to mind the far-reaching, spiritually inflected iconography of Asia and the African Diaspora. Like all of Ofili’s work, this painting fearlessly takes on questions of the profane juxtaposed with the sacred, the humorous with the sublime, and the bold with the mysterious.
Ofili is one of the most visible of the generation of British artists known as the YBAs (Young British Artists) at the center of the recent controversy between the Brooklyn Art Museum and the city of New York. First featured in a museum in the 1995 Walker exhibition Brilliant! New Art from London, Ofili went on to win the coveted Tate Gallery Turner Prize in 1998.
This painting joins a recent acquisition of six watercolors by Ofili, providing further depth to the Walker’s collection of work by this young artist. In addition, it builds the museum’s growing concentration of work by YBAs (including Angus Fairhurst, Dinos and Jake Chapman, Sam Taylor-Wood, Rachel Whiteread, and Georgina Starr) and enhances the Walker’s collection of artists of African descent, including David Hammons, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, and Adrian Piper.