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Contemporary artists such as Toyin Ojih Odutola, who are influenced by the rapid technological advancements, remind us that drawing is an irreplaceable medium.
By Cynthia Close
Some people are concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence, brain-computer interactions, and other technological innovations on the arts. Drawing, for example, is the foundation of so many other media.
Toyin Ojih, a Nigerian-American artist who was born in Ile-Ife, Nigeria in 1985, helps to ease these concerns. These concerns can be eased by artists like Toyin Ojih, a Nigerian-American visual artist born in Ile-Ife (Nigeria) in 1985. She uses drawing to interpret the world around her—and to invent a new world rooted in her own mythmaking.
A meteoric Rise
Odutola’s talents were recognized by gallerist Jack ShainmanWhile she was a graduate student in San Francisco at the California College of the Arts. Shainman presented Odutola’s first solo show at his Chelsea, N.Y.-based gallery, in 2011. Since then, the artist’s rise has been meteoric. After a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018Then a year after that, she was nominated for The Future Generation Art Prize during the 2019 Venice Biennale.
Odutola is a New York City-based artist who was initially known for her unconventional drawing style, which included a monochromatic color palette and the use of a ballpoint pens. Now, she can create full-color images using pencils or pastels as well as charcoal. Many of her drawings are life-sized—a mindboggling tour de force of intricate mark-making and complex compositional renderings of interior scenes that occasionally incorporate exterior landscapes as background, often viewed through windows or open doors.
A Storyteller Via Marks
Odutola, in a nutshell, is a storyteller. Her writing is a catalyst for the visual histories that are portrayed in her framed gallery works. She tells ancient African stories through a contemporary lens, like a wandering Griot.
The rendering of skin, particularly Black skin, is central to Odutola’s mark-making. In an essay concurrent with her Whitney show, Odutola notes, “When I draw the skin of my subjects, I really want people to travel throughout them. The surface isn’t something I trifle with. The skin is my geography as I travel around to discover the stories of each individual. With every line I mark up, I map out the territory of their realities.”
As a universal human endeavor—a shared visual language of expression—drawing, especially at the hands of artists like Odutola, is here to stay.
About the Author
Cynthia Close earned an MFA from Boston University and worked in various art-related roles before becoming a writer and editor.