‘Skin is a terrain’: Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola on drawing intricate portraits of black life

Written byJacqui Palumbo, CNN

Ojih Odutola wants her art to provide a space through which viewers can reflect and arrive at their own interpretations. Credit: Toyin Ojih OdutolaGallery. Credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola

Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola is known for her rich, textural portraits of black life, layered through intricate ballpoint pen, charcoal and pastel.
Born in 1985, Ojih Odutola is fundamentally a storyteller, influenced by the narrative traditions of her childhood. Her 2017 show at the Whitney Museum, her first solo exhibition in New York, unfolded a dual, interconnected narrative about two fictional aristocratic families in Nigeria.
More recently, when the Barbican Centre in London closed due to Covid-19 restrictions in March, it was just days before her first UK exhibition, “A Countervailing Theory,” was set to open. Now, with the show postponed, Ojih Odutola has put together a virtual exhibition for New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery, “Tell Me a Story, I Don’t Care If It’s True,” made primarily of works created while the artist was at home over the past few months.

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