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The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (Third Version)

Chris Ofili (British, b. 1968)


Medium acrylic, oil, Polyester resin, paper collage, map pins, glitter, and elephant dung on linen Measurements H: 96 x W: 72 in. (243.8 x 182.88 cm) Credit Purchase: gift of Sheila and Milton Fine Accession Number 2000.2 Location Not on View


In this psychedelic work, anonymous hands reach toward the title character, Captain Shit. This figure—part superhero and part soul singer—plays a recurring role in a series of paintings by Chris Ofili in which he uses elephant dung as a medium. Combining vibrant, shimmering paint and dried elephant dung from the London Zoo, these works are simultaneously beautiful and repulsive. While alluding generally to his African heritage, Ofili deliberately misquotes the traditional ritual significance of dung by recontextualizing the material. For him, the use of elephant dung brings the African landscape to his painting practice. Ofili’s paintings explore contemporary black urban experience and its associated stereotypes. His intricately layered works combine beadlike dots of paint, inspired in part by cave paintings in Zimbabwe, with collaged images from magazines and materials such as glitter and map pins. The Captain Shit series explores a certain type of masculine identity through imagery and themes from Greek mythology, the Bible, black exploitation movies, pop music, and celebrity culture. Ofili seems to question these notions of hypermasculinity: set into the black stars surrounding its protagonist are small pairs of eyes that seem to be peering accusatorially out at the viewer. —From gallery label, by Douglas Fogle and Karin Campbell, 2009