Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Art Is So Good Even Cookie Lyon Loves It

Through her engaging art, Toyin Ojih Odutola enables viewers to see more than what meets the eye. She has gained a lot of popularity for her pen ink drawings which raise pertinent questions about the construct of blackness, asking her viewers to question their own associations with the colour.

Born in Nigeria, Ojih Odutola only became aware of her blackness when she moved to America with her family at the age of 5, which aided her belief that identities are a construct. Due to the shock of this transition in her life, the artist used drawing as a coping mechanism, and over time, it transformed into an "investigative, learning activity" for her. 

In an interview with Nylon, she talked about how being Nigerian influences her art: 

"The best gift I received from growing up in a Nigerian house and, by in large, the community, was the beauty, magic, and energising spirit of storytelling.

Whenever I look back fondly at my childhood, I think of all the moments when we would gather together with family and friends and tell stories to one another—and often there was laughter."

Ojih Odutola’s pen drawings have gained her a significant following over time and a lot of popularity. Solange Knowles collects her art, and one of her pieces was featured in an episode of Empire – on a wall in Cookie Lyon’s apartment.. Her work was chosen on both accounts with the intention to promote art which represents black people. 

Toyin's art steps outside of the conventional bounds of visibility and definitely pushes boundaries. It is no wonder that she has landed her first solo exhibition in New York.

With her new series To Wander Determined, Ojih Odutola presents an interconnected series of fictional portraits, chronicling the lives of two aristocratic Nigerian families. Whilst using her usual method of intricate mark making, the artist continues her examinations of narrative, authenticity and representation in this series. 

The exhibition is currently running until February 28 at Whitney Museum of American Art New York. For more information on her work and exhibitions, visit her website or check her out on Instagram.

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