Recent Acquisitions: Toyin Ojih Odutola

June 15 – December 8, 2019

A new bi-annual exhibition series, Recent Acquisitions highlights works that have been gifted to or purchased for the Frye Art Museum’s permanent collection. The series underscores the Museum’s commitment to taking calculated risks, uncovering new voices, facilitating conversation, and engaging our community in relevant social dialogues.

The inaugural exhibition in the series focuses on a suite of prints by New York-based artist Toyin Ojih Odutola. Reflecting her experience of moving from Nigeria to the United States and assimilating into the culture of Alabama, Odutola produces intimate portraits that trouble generalized demarcations of identity, particularly skin color. Early in her career, she developed a unique mark-making method with black ballpoint pen that gives her subjects’ skin a richly textured, geographical appearance. The artist has said that with this technique she aims to emphasize “the specificity of blackness, where an individual’s subjectivity, various realities, and experiences can be drawn into the diverse topography of the epidermis.” Though her approach has expanded to include reflective objects and fantastical backgrounds that challenge viewers to enter the spaces of her subjects, a grounding sense of tactility remains at the heart of her work.

Birmingham, a set of three lithographs representing the artist’s brother, demonstrates one of Odutola’s characteristic approaches to portraiture, in which the sitter is seen obliquely or from multiple, unusual angles within one composition. The use of gold leaf detailing elevates the subject's ordinary white tank top, bringing a regal dignity to the portrayal. Odutola created this work during her 2014 residency at the Tamarind Institute, a renowned printmaking workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Institute provides one of the only master training programs in the world for lithography, a method of transferring images drawn onto stone or metal plates in oil-based crayon.

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Birmingham (left, center, right), 2014. Four-color lithograph with gold leaf. 24 x 16 ½ in. each. Frye Art Museum. Purchased with funds provided by Seattle Art Fair, additional funds provided by Frye Art Museum Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2018.007.01-.03.