Toyin Ojih Odutola, ‘Benjamin’, 2012-2013, Rush Philanthropic Benefit Auction 2015

Toyin Odutola’s monochromatic portraits investigate perceptions of race through intricate pen and ink or charcoal works on paper. As seen in Benjamin, Odutola creates rich, detailed, and textural surfaces to render the skin of her subjects, taking inspiration from traditional African textiles. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, which has hosted several solo exhibitions of the artist. Odutola has also exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.


Image rights: Courtesy of artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NYC

About Toyin Ojih Odutola

Through black ballpoint pen ink, Toyin Odutola’s drawings question physical and sociopolitical identities as they pertain to skin color. Treating skin as topography, she layers ink as a means of mapping a person’s subjective, individual geography built from real-life experiences. Her interest in surface qualities stems from the history of African textiles, which inspires the artist’s rich textures on flat planes. Concerned with historical representations of black subjects in portraiture, Odutola undermines notions of blackness in her drawings by exploring what it means to look or be perceived as black, as, while drawn in black ink, not all of her subjects are of African descent. More recently, Odutola has begun to look beyond pen ink, working with charcoal and pastels to reflect the cultural diversity and ambition of American cities.

Nigerian, b. 1985, Ife, Nigeria, based in New York, New York