On Loan , 2018, part of the solo exhibition,   When Legends Die , on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York , September 6th through October 27th, 2018.

On Loan, 2018, part of the solo exhibition, When Legends Die, on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, September 6th through October 27th, 2018.


When Legends Die, 2018

In 2016, the UmuEze Amara Clan and the House of Obafemi weren't even a register. I didn't have a solid plan, it was all material-driven. I needed to investigate the potentials of working in pastel and charcoal further than I had before. It was also clinical: from methodological shifts to the practical logistics of composing a drawing engaging with a versatile but unpredictable pairing of materials. The process was freeing and completely open, yet after a few weeks I began to see a pattern and propensity in what I chose to draw and how my skills were developing. Soon enough the story took shape, one that seemed whimsical and nostalgic. 

I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I remember writing in my journal one night: "What if there was a story about a Nigerian aristocratic family, helmed by a nobleman and his husband? What would that look like?" I entertained this musing for the duration of my residency at Headlands Center for the Arts, then put it away the moment I returned to New York. About a month later I was invited by the Museum of the African Diaspora, in San Francisco, to create new works for a solo exhibition that following October. All I could think of as a subject was that question, the potential for that story to evolve and expand. So I went to work, writing out the time lines, the family trees, doing the necessary research, all the time thinking this was a one-off, all of it for this one show titled, A Matter of Fact. However, when I completed the final drawing for the show in August of 2016, I knew the story wasn't quite finished. 

Three more solo exhibitions later (To Wander Determined, at Whitney Museum of American Art, 2017; Testing the Name, at Savannah College of Art and Design's Museum of Art, 2018; and The Firmament, at Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2018), I find myself at the ending. I've been consumed by these characters for three years now and it's been surreal, humbling and insanely stressful, but also very beautiful and instructive. It's time to draw it all to a conclusion.


Toyin Ojih Odutola