Text by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
In 2017, Chris Ofili photographed chain-link fences throughout the island of Trinidad in order to explore notions of beauty, community, liberation and constraint. This series of arresting images—"pocket photography," as described by the artist—is the first body of photography ever published by Ofili. Through these entrancing black-and-white photographs, the artist engages with the diverse sources that inspired his critically acclaimed Paradise Lost exhibition at David Zwirner, New York, in fall 2017.
Since moving to Trinidad in 2005, Ofili has continued to engage with its natural setting. In these photographs, Ofili's lens captures a wide cross section of Trinidad—the encounter between the natural and urban settings on the island, and the aesthetic possibilities each brings out in the other. In a new essay, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, the critically acclaimed author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World, charts the history of chain-link fences, and explores what this imagery tells us about Trinidad in particular and the Caribbean as a whole.