Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Visions of Power

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Suspicions Left Behind, 2020.

Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery © Toyin Ojih Odutola.

Toyin Ojih Odutola is known for visual storytelling, exploring mythic origin-stories, and examining the complexities of identity. Zadie Smith's New Yorker feature analyzes Odutola's latest body of work, A Countervailing Theory-- a series which captures the artist's trademarks. A Countervailing Theory depicts a class of dominant women rulers and subservient male laborers. Yet instead of depicting these historical narratives of gender and power as benevolent, Odutola points to the cruelties of hierarchical systems.

"Ojih Odutola’s radical visual reversals function like thought experiments that take us beyond the merely hierarchical. By positioning the unexpected figure of the black woman as master, as oppressor, she suspends, for a moment, our focus on the individual sins of people—the Mississippi overseer, the British slave merchant, the West African slave raider—and turns it back upon enabling systems."- Zadie Smith