At The Armory Show 2022, David Zwirner will feature a two-artist presentation of new work by Huma Bhabha, who joined the gallery earlier this year, and Chris Ofili. Both artists have long admired each other’s work and practices.
Bhabha’s sculptures and drawings further the artist’s long-term engagement with the expressive possibilities of the figure, as well as her inventive manipulation of material and form. At the entrance to the booth, a 6-foot-tall totemic figure stands as if a guard or greeter. Constructed from cork and styrofoam, the artist’s hand is evident throughout the sculpture’s formidable body, the material revealing where she has chiseled knees, buttocks, abdomen, and breasts, and where she has painted eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Inside, the booth will feature two new busts composed of plaster, clay, wood, and styrofoam. Raised on integrated pedestals that engage found material as much as they evoke landscapes, these sculptures feature multiple faces as seen in the round. Bhabha unifies the various materials in her sculptures with an expressionistic application of acrylic paint, creating richly textured figures that are highly abstracted, yet deeply human.
Also on view will be a selection of Bhabha’s large-scale drawings with collage that are created using found imagery, pastel, acrylic, and washes of ink. Inspired by German expressionism, H. R. Giger, Francis Picabia, anime, and science fiction, in these works on paper, the artist layers anthropomorphic faces onto a single figure and uses photographs of animals, such as penguins, wolves, and a chimpanzee, in place of their eyes.
Ofili will debut three new paintings, as well as recent related works, many of which feature characters and stories from Greek and Roman mythology. Vibrant, symbolic, and enigmatic, Ofili’s compositions combine a diverse range of aesthetic and cultural sources. In some works on view, he pays tribute to the late Trinidadian artists Boscoe Holder and Embah. In others, Ofili portrays characters from the classical canon in lush palettes accented with shimmering gold leaf, taking inspiration from Emily Wilson’s 2017 translation of Homer’s Odyssey and the elegant figural contortions of Vaslav Nijinsky and Sergei Diaghilev’s 1912 modernist ballet adaptation of Claude Debussy’s symphonic tone poem “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (1894).
Ofili’s new works comprise a suite: in Waterfall – artist & muse (after Boscoe Holder), Waterfall – flower eaters, and Waterfall – crowning of a Satyr, the satyr—usually considered a marginal character in Greek mythology—is positioned as a central protagonist. Over the course of these paintings, Ofili charts a dual journey of creative transformation that unfolds in a place of running waters. In the first canvas, an artist figure, bearing signs of his incipient mythological metamorphosis, is depicted drawing his muse in a process that echoes Pygmalion’s sculptural act of creation. In the second work, the two figures intertwine, the artist becoming satyr as the object of his labors blooms with life. In the third and final painting, the muse crowns her fully fledged satyr with a radiant halo, a motif that is also taken up in Ofili’s nearby works on view. Rendered in diffuse shades of purple, blue, red, and green, and accented by an ethereal handling of light, the atmospheric works speak to Ofili’s evocative facility with color and continued pursuit of the narrative possibilities of painting.