Toyin Ojih Odutola

A Countervailing Theory

The Barbican, London, presents the first-ever UK exhibition by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola (b.1985), A Countervailing Theory, a site-specific commission for The Curve gallery.

An epic cycle of drawings unfurls across the 90-metre long gallery, exploring an imagined ancient myth conceived by the artist. An immersive soundscape by conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye fills the gallery in response to Ojih Odutola’s work.

Executed in pastel, charcoal and chalk, the installation features a series of 40 new drawings, each work acting as an individual episode within an overarching narrative.

Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories she presents. For A Countervailing Theory, the artist has woven a tale of a fictional ancient civilisation in central Nigeria dominated by female rulers and served by male labourers.

Offering an insight into this remarkable body of work, the richly illustrated accompanying publication features a new text by award-winning writer Zadie Smith, and an interview with the artist by exhibition curator Lotte Johnson.

“Luckily, I discovered drawing. Through drawing, I could cope with the racism, the sexism, the cultural friction. It helped me disassociate a little bit and understand that this is a systemic problem, a societal imposition.” — Toyin Ojih Odutola (interviewed in The Guardian, August 2020)

Published on the occasion of the exhibition, Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory at Barbican, The Curve, London (11 August 2020 – 24 January 2021).

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