William Shakespeare × Chris Ofili: Othello
William Shakespeare and Chris Ofili
Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most contemporary and moving plays, with its emphasis on race, revenge, murder, and lost love. Chris Ofili’s new edition highlight’s the tragedy of Othello’s plight in ways no other previous edition of this play has.
In twelve etchings Ofili has produced to illustrate this play, Othello is depicted with tears in his eyes, which flow below various scenes visualized in his forehead. Ofili asks us to see in Othello the great injustices that still plague the world today. These images add feeling to Shakespeare’s words, and together they form their own hybrid object—something between a book and a visual retelling of the tragedy. With a foreword by the renowned critic Fred Moten, this edition is the first of its kind and puts Othello’s blackness and interiority front and center, forcing us to confront the complex world that ultimately dooms him.
The first play in the Seeing Shakespeare, Othello is illustrated by English contemporary artist Chris Ofili. Future titles in the series include A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustrated by Marcel Dzama, and The Merchant of Venice with images by Jordan Wolfson.
Chris Ofili creates intricate, kaleidoscopic paintings and works on paper that deftly merge abstraction and figuration. Ofili rose to prominence in the 1990s for his complex and playful multi-layered paintings, which he bedecked with a signature blend of resin, glitter, collage, and, often, elephant dung. His recent works—vibrant, symbolic, and frequently mysterious—draw upon the lush landscapes and local traditions of the island of Trinidad, where he has lived since 2005. Employing a diverse range of aesthetic and cultural sources, including, among others, Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation films, Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli, and modernist painting, Ofili’s work investigates the intersection of passion, identity, and representation.
Fred Moten is Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003); Hughson’s Tavern (2008), B. Jenkins (2009), The Feel Trio (2014), The Little Edges (2014), The Service Porch (2016), Black and Blur (consent not to be a single being) (2017), and co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013).