The Whitney Museum of American Art debuts Toyin Ojih Odutola’s first solo museum exhibition in New York on October 20, 2017. The exhibition presents 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. The exhibition features a significant new body of work alongside a small selection of works made in 2016.
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 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 and color—whether of palette or skin—Ojih Odutola continues her examinations of narrative, authenticity, and representation.
Toyin Ojih Odutola (b. 1985) was born in Ife, Nigeria and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She currently lives and works in New York City. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco (2016), the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2015), and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (2013). 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). Ojih Odutola received her MFA from the California College of Arts, San Francisco in 2012 and her BFA from the University of Alabama, Huntsville in 2008.
Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined will be on view in the first-floor John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gallery, which is accessible to the public free-of-charge.
This exhibition is organized by Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator, and Melinda Lang, curatorial assistant. Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined is sponsored by Audi of America. Major support is provided by the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation. Generous support is provided by Jackson Tang.