Chris Ofili The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars 1998 painting of a black man in an elaborate suit

Chris Ofili
The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars 1998
© Chris Ofili Image: courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Chris Ofili, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ 1998
Chris Ofili
No Woman, No Cry 1998
Tate
© Chris Ofili, courtesy Victoria Miro, London

Ofili is, like they say in hip-hop, all about flow.
DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller in ‘Deep shit: an interview with Chris Ofili’, Parkett no. 58 2000

Contemporary black culture resonates within Ofili’s paintings of the 1990s. Hip-hop in particular was a defining cultural force for his generation, and he applied the same attitude to painting.

I like [hip-hop’s] cut-and-paste attitude. You can often hear where one joint ends and another begins, which is something I try to make apparent in my work so you can see how things are made. Hip-hop takes existing beats, restructures them, and injects the individual in the form of a rap. You might not understand the lyrics, but you always recognise the voice of a particular rapper.
Chris Ofili, in Donna De Salvo, ‘My pop: Chris Ofili’, Artforum October 2004

Taking license to rework stereotypes of black culture, Ofili created ‘Captain Shit’ – a fictional character in the mould of 1970s funk musician Captain Sky and Marvel comic superhero Luke Cage, appearing here in The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars 1998. Many of Ofili’s paintings from the late 1990s such as Pimpin ain’t easy 1997, Blossom 1997 and Foxy Roxy 1997 were a direct response to living in the King’s Cross area of London and seeing the street activity of pimps, drug dealers and prostitutes.

Mid–late 1990s

Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998 presenting, among other works, No Woman, No Cry 1998. The teardrops in this tender painting contain collaged pictures of the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, victim of a racist murder in 1993. Ofili was deeply moved by Doreen Lawrence’s dignity throughout the public enquiry into her son’s death which exposed the mishandling of the investigation and the institutional racism of the Metropolitan police.

Ofili’s paintings often combine a number of seemingly unrelated sources of inspiration, such as The Holy Virgin Mary 1996 which fuses blaxploitation, hip-hop and Christian imagery more usually seen in Renaissance altarpieces:

It’s about the way the black woman is talked about in hip-hop music. It’s about my religious upbringing, and confusion about that situation. The contradiction of a virgin mother. It’s about the stereotyping of the black female… It’s about beauty. It’s about caricature. And it’s about just being confused.
Chris Ofili, in Paul D. Miller, ‘Deep shit: an interview with Chris Ofili’, Parkett no. 58 2000