The imagined people in Chris Ofili's watercolors assemble like a crowd of elders, said Bridget L. Goodbody in Time Out New York. Around 180 of them cover the walls in the Studio Museum in Harlem. The women face forward, like saints and icons, while the men are seen in profile, like ancient Egyptian figures. They all 'œwear brilliantly colored clothes that resemble both African textiles and Rorschach blots.' Ofili's portraits of black people avoid an exoticizing gaze. 'œInstead, untainted by racism, they look like family portraits, vivid and timeless.'
Ofili's exhibition of watercolors is 'œthis spring art season's rapturous sleeper,' said Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. The British artist completes several watercolors every day, as warm-up and meditation, to prepare him for the more taxing, less intuitive medium of oil painting. These works are born of routine, and 'œout of routine comes inspiration.' While the cameolike heads look similar, none are exactly alike. Women's elaborate updos shift to ponytails or butterfly wing constructions, while men grow and lose beards and Afros. Like a well-known tale repeated by an expert storyteller, each iteration conveys 'œsomething about the nature of variety in life, which can be subtle.'