Toyin
Ojih Odutola


















Information



Toyin Ojih Odutola (b. 1985, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, Nigeria) is a visual artist and columnist based in New York. She’s best known for detailed, multimedia drawings on paper emphasizing
the topography of skin as place and the opportunities for storytelling in pictures. Often presented in large scale series, or “chapters,” her works exist collectively long after they’ve been separated.

She has participated in solo and group exhibitions at national and international institutions, including the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, Barbican Centre, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, Whitney Museum of American Art, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, The Drawing Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, the Menil Collection, as well as the 12th Manifesta Biennial in Palermo, Italy.

Ojih Odutola earned her BA from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her MFA from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She was included in Forbes 2012 “30 under 30” list for Art and Design. In 2016, she undertook residency at Headlands Center for the Arts; she was the Lida A. Orzeck ‘68 Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Barnard College from 2017—2018; and in 2019, inducted into the National Academy of Design. For the 2020 Apollo Magazine Awards, she was named “Artist of the Year.” 

Public collections of her artworks are held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Portrait Gallery, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Harvard Art Museums, Massachusetts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, among others.


︎︎︎ PDF of CV

︎︎︎ Instagram


On View


14 Sep — 31 Dec 2022
16th Biennale de Lyon, France


3 Sep 2022 — 22 Jan 2023

New Work: Toyin Ojih Odutola
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California


7 Jul — 20 Aug 2022
Uncanny Interiors
Nicola Vassell Gallery, New York


23 Jun — 12 Aug 2022
Among Friends:
Three Views of a Collection

The Flag Art Foundation, New York


18 Jun — 04 Sep 2022
The Condition of Being Addressable
The Institute of Contemporary Art,
Los Angeles, California



12 May — 30 Oct 2022
Fire Figure Fantasy:
Selections from ICA Miami’s Collection

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Florida



10 Apr — 17 Jul 2022
Afro-Atlantic Histories
National Gallery of Art,
Washington DC


31 Mar — 11 Sep 2022
Living Histories,
Frick Madison, New York



30 Mar — 21 Aug 2022
Elegies:
Still Lifes in Contemporary Art

Museum of the African Diaspora
San Francisco, California




Press


2022
Great Immigrants 2022 Honoree, Carnegie Corporation
On Storytelling with Erin J. Gilbert, Hirshhorn Museum
Smithsonian Magazine, by Roger Catlin


2021 — 2020
The Washington Post, by Vanessa H. Larson
The New York Times Style Magazine, by Lovia Gyarkye
Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
The White Review, by Orit Gat
ArtReview, by Rahel Aima
The Brooklyn Rail, by Amber Jamilla Musser
The New York Times, by Jason Farago
The Art Newspaper, by Louisa Buck
CNN Style, by Jaqui Palumbo
Artforum, by Cassie Packard
Granta, by Yaa Gyasi
iNews, by Hettie Judah
The Quietus, by Amah-Rose Abrams
Artforum, by Jo Baer
Flash Art, by Kareem Reid
Frieze, by Rianna Jade Parker
HyperAllergic, by Naomi Polonsky
The New Yorker, by Zadie Smith
Apollo Magazine, by Samuel Reilly
Conversation with Erin J. Gilbert, Nothing Concrete
Artsy, by Gabrielle Bruney
Great Women Artists with Katy Hessel
Talk Art with Russell Tovey & Robert Diament
WePresent, by Allyssia Alleyne



︎︎︎ Extended List



Galleries


Refer all inquiries, be they acquisition(s), artwork loan(s), press, image licensing, events, &c, to either:


Jack Shainman New York    

Corvi-Mora 
London




Publications


︎︎︎CLICK ON BOOK SELECTION TO LEARN MORE AND/OR PURCHASE.





Timeline


YEAR(S) COMPLETED
SERIES
SUMMARY
SELECT WORK(S) / INSTALLATION VIEWS

2008


A Colonized Mind
On the limitations of representative, visual language. Specifically, considering James Baldwin’s statement:

“The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”

2011


(MAPS)
“Where some may see flat, static narratives, I see a spectrum of tonal gradations and realities. What I am creating is literally black portraiture with ballpoint pen ink. I’m looking for that in-between state in an individual where the over-arching definition is lost. Skin as geography is the terrain I expand by emphasizing the specificity of blackness, where an individual’s subjectivity, various realities and experiences can literally be drawn onto the diverse topography of the epidermis. From there, the possibilities of portraying a fully-fledged person are endless.”

— Artist Statement, 2011


2012


Black Surfaces. Black Grounds.
Using consistent materials: black ballpoint pen ink and black acrylic ink on black matted or semi-glossed illustration board. Surface details in the mark-making draw on visual inconsistencies (light, shadow, and texture) and problematic contradictions ingrained in the chroma. Attempts to deconstruct the surface with various line-work, shading, and other tactile traces reveal a “copper-like” sheen, depending on your position, possibly accentuating stale concepts. Even so, the subjects of the series are interpreted bare, their purpose is not to be a spectacle for the viewer. In an isolated space, a sense of placement disclosed in titles.

2012—2013



My Country Has No Name
While concerned with the historical representation of the black subject in modern and contemporary portraiture, [her] focus shifts to the transcendence of skin (color) and placement (origin), opening a field for the viewer to place themselves in the work; finding spaces to belong or to reject, to possess, to implant one’s self or to find freedom from the rejection of that space.

— Jack Shainman Gallery, 2013


2013


All These Garlands Prove Nothing
A record of different hair stylings donned from 2008 to 2012, through the filter of memory. Each portrait conveys the same subject at issue with varying personas. The drawings were created using graphite, ballpoint pen ink, and marker on paper. Collectively, the series stresses how arbitrary identity is more emphasized by each dubious, “singular” picture, especially once embellishments are altered or disregarded altogether.

2013



Guaging Tone & Of Another Kind
When an aesthetic is inverted, does the meaning stay the same? If so, does this affect how people might read images of themselves? What might they recognize and what is forgotten or lost? Does this render images as easier to deal with or simply more convenient? To apply this effect, each drawing is made of metallic marker on illustration board.

2014


Like the Sea
The series title is excerpted from an aphorism in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), which states:

"Love is lak de sea.
It's uh movin' thing, but still and all,
it takes its shape from de shore it meets,
and it's different with every shore."

Eleven drawings capture two younger brothers. They are surrounded by tapestries emblematic of the various locales their family has lived. These sites and the memories associated are interwoven into the moments of love shared there. An attempt towards subjectivity through specificity of a narrative, the series shifts away from the “decontextualized” surroundings of past works.

2014


Untold Stories
Thirteen mixed-media drawings using pastel, charcoal, marker, pencil and graphite on paper for the solo exhibition at Contemporary Art Museum St Louis. The series presents isolated visual narratives with diptychs and triptychs combining image with text.

2015



Of Context and Without
Drawings made of charcoal, pastel, marker, ballpoint pen ink, and graphite on board and paper. Each picture in conversation with its given title. They ask the viewer which method is more reliable to arrive at meaning: through the provision of context or without?

2015—2017


The Treatment
Forty-three drawings as a single work, depicting well-known, white men in their youth. Applying the prompt from Nina Simone’s dedication to Lorraine Hansberry, “Young, Gifted and Black,” every picture is rendered in black, ballpoint pen ink and graphite. Each portrait treated as systemically indistinguishable from the sameness of the group.

The labor required to create the individual pieces changes nothing: there is no supportive text or enhancing narrative added; each drawing is titled in the sequence it was created. In a singular chroma, these figures are stripped of the constructs and exclusivity their definitions afford. Their image is included at the margins, at the mercy of shifting reads and perceptions.

2016


A Matter of Fact
Chapter One

Nineteen drawings made of pastel, charcoal, and graphite on paper for the solo exhibition at Museum of the African Diaspora. Presenting a fictionalized union between titled sons from two aristocratic, Nigerian families: The Honorable Jideofor Emeka from the UmuEze Amara Clan and his husband, Lord Temitope Omodele, from House of Obafemi. The series focuses on the Emeka marquisate, one of the oldest noble clans of Nigeria, highlighting their wealth and holdings if colonialism and chattel slavery had never disrupted the country. The crimson-clay red wall color chosen is emblematic of the stature and wealth of the family.

2017


To Wander Determined
Chapter Two: Part One

Fourteen drawings from the collection of two fictionalized Nigerian, aristocratic families, with focus on the Omodele barony, House of Obafemi. Known for their ambassadorship, wine, and travels, the soft, pink wall color chosen emphasizes the family’s matrilineal power.

2017—2018


Testing the Name
Chapter Two: Part Two

Sixteen drawings made of pastel, charcoal, and graphite on paper from the fictionalized House of Obafemi collection. Presented for the solo exhibition at SCAD Museum of Art. Part Two centers on the relationships between parents and children of the Omodele barony, particularly that of Lord Temitope with his father, Lord Ayotomiwa. The haint blue wall color is inspired by and pays homage to the rich Gullah culture prominent in Savannah, Georgia.


2018


When Legends Die
Chapter Three

Thirty-three drawings made of pastel, charcoal, and graphite on paper. Presented as a final chapter to the fictional Emeka and Omodole families and their collective legacy as the UmuEze Amara Clan and House of Obafemi. The wall color brings a finality in tone to the series, signifying the changing of regimes.

2018


Scenes of Exchange
Seven drawings created for the 12th Manifesta biennial theme, The Planetary Garden,” highlighting the globally diverse history of Palermo. This small series presents possible encounters through the lens of trade between Italy and Nigeria. The chosen wall color reflects interiors often found in the antiquanted buildings of the city.

2017—ongoing


This Moment No Longer Belongs To You
Travel, auto-portrait archive of drawings and sketches. Each portrait is a place.

2019—2020


A Countervailing Theory
A recently unearthed ancient parable set in central Nigeria’s Jos Plateau. Forty monochromatic drawings made of pastel, charcoal and chalk on gessoed linen and board are presented in an undulating sequence against gradating wall striations. The series is conceived as pictographic scans of black shale tablets found in the region which counter previously believed origin stories. Read as a single body of work, it questions the nature of mythologies we tell ourselves.

For solo exhibitions at Barbican Centre’s The Curve, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg, and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum from 2020 through 2022.

2020


Tell Me A Story, I Don’t Care If It’s True
A series of thirty-four anecdotal drawings made of colored pencil, graphite and ink on Dura-lar film. Comprised of pictures with accompanying, free-associative text and other isolated narratives, most of the works were created during COVID-19 quarantine in New York.

2021—ongoing


Missed Connections
As of 2021, Ojih Odutola contributes to her «Missed Connections» artist column in Elephant Magazine. Each biannual issue features a new scene constructed by the artist.
Scene Catalog


2021


The Listener
84 x 50 x 1 3/8 inches drawing made of charcoal, pastel, and chalk on linen over Dibond panel, titled: The Listener.

Part of the year-long, exhibition project, Living Histories at Frick Madison, engaging with works in the Frick Collection through queer perspectives from contemporary, New York-based artists.

The world of A Countervailing Theory in conversation with Rembrandt’s paintings, specifically a 1658 self-portrait towards the end of his life and a 1631 commission at the start of his career.

The Listener posits how choosing to be quiet is a defiant power, and how making space for others to speak isn’t simply a small courtesy, but an act of sovereignty.

2021—2022


Satellite
Series of twenty-one drawings (two diptychs) made of pastel, charcoal and graphite on paper. Presented as the solo exhibition New Work: Toyin Ojih Odutola at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,  September 2022 — January 2023.

The year is 2050, and Oluwaseun is an encryptor who lives in Eko—the traditional Yoruba name for today’s Lagos, Nigeria. With the outside world besieged by overpopulation and climate refugee migration, Oluwaseun lives a secluded existence in a compact apartment tiled with reflective screens.
She struggles with the common affliction of “self-forgetfulness,” often caused by chronic trauma, and subscribes to REMINDR, a memory-retention service that dispatches monthly prompts and exercises. A holographic prompt soon reveals the spirit of Adeseun, and the two orbit, collide, and ultimately merge, leaving their mark in the form of a new memory.

— Alison Guh, Curatorial Assistant of Contemporary Art, SFMoMA






Site content is copyrighted Toyin Ojih Odutola, 2022. All Rights Reserved.︎Select photographs from slideshow and timeline Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Kunsten Museum Aalborg, Barbican Centre, Whitney Museum of American Art, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Pinchuk Art Centre, The Frick Collection, & Jack Shainman Gallery.