Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined
On October 20, 2017, the Whitney Museum of American Art will present To Wander Determined, a solo exhibition by Toyin Ojih Odutola. The exhibition features an interconnected series of portraits that chronicle the private lives and surroundings of two fictional aristocratic Nigerian families: the UmuEze Amara clan and the house of Obafemi. Rendered life-size in charcoal, pastel, and pencil, Ojih Odutola’s figures appear enigmatic and mysterious, set against luxurious backdrops of domesticity and leisure. In tandem with the artist’s larger conceived narrative, they highlight the malleability of identity and upend assumptions about race, wealth, and class.
Ojih Odutola creates intimate drawings that explore the complexity of identification and belonging. Depicted in her distinctive style of intricate mark-making, her sumptuous compositions reimagine the genre and traditions of portraiture. They and the worlds they inhabit are informed by the artist’s own array of inspirations, which range from art history to popular culture to experiences of migration and dislocation. Highly attentive to detail and the nuances of space, class, and color—whether of palette or skin—Ojih Odutola continues her examinations of narrative, authenticity, and representation.
Ojih Odutola (b. 1985) makes multimedia drawings that explore the socio-political construct of skin colour and her personal journey of having been born in Ife, Nigeria and then moving and assimilating into American culture in conservative Alabama. In October 2016, Ojih Odutola debuted A Matter of Fact, a series of drawings featuring members of the fictionalized aristocratic UmuEze Amara Clan, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. She has participated in several group shows including Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, Brooklyn Museum (2015); Ballpoint Pen Drawing Since 1950, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2013); Fore, Studio Museum in Harlem (2012); The Moment for Ink, Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco (2013); and The Progress of Love, Menil Collection, Houston (2012).
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