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40 Under 40 Africa

Toyin Ojih Odutola

28 September 2020

New York

Toyin Ojih Odutola is an artist who thinks deeply about both mark-making and myth-making. With pastel, charcoal and pencil, the Nigerian-born artist often works in series to create mythic narratives that explore Black identity both in Africa and the United States, where she moved at the age of five.

Ojih Odutola has had solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco. A site-specific commission currently at the Barbican in London includes 40 drawings narrating the history of a fictional ancient civilisation in the Plateau State of Nigeria, ruled over by women warriors known as the Eshu. Presented as ‘scans’ of ancient markings that have been discovered by an archaeologist, the drawings demonstrate Ojih Odutola’s long-standing interest in the meeting of fiction and graphic art. In 2019, Ojih Odutola was commissioned to create a portrait of Zadie Smith (who has written about her art) for the National Portrait Gallery in London. In the United States, her work can be found in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Anchor (2018), Toyin Ojih Odutola.

Anchor (2018), Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; © Toyin Ojih Odutola

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