THIS FALL, A FASCINATING STORY about Nigerian women, female warriors who ruled a prehistoric civilization, will be told at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Presented through a series of 40 large-scale monochromatic drawings by Toyin Ojih Odutola, the mythological narrative conceived by the artist will unfold on the Smithsonian museum’s second floor. The installation will span nearly 400 linear feet, the entirety of the circular inner galleries.

After an extended closure due to the pandemic, the Hirshhorn is reopening its building to the public on Aug. 20. In the fall, a major exhibition of Ojih Odutola will feature prominently in the museum’s exhibition programming.

“Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory” opens Nov. 19 at the Hirshhorn. The body of work is based on an imagined world in Central Nigeria’s Plateau State, where male laborers known as the Koba serve a ruling class of female warriors called the Eshu. The artist’s elaborate fiction considers structures of power, culture, and gender and the preservation and interpretation of history.

Ojih Odutola lives and works in New York. Known for her visual storytelling, she uses ballpoint pens, pencils, pastels and charcoal to develop narrative portraits with layered backstories. Her multimedia drawings explore the fluidity of identity and her interest in the topography of skin through detailed mark making.

“A Countervailing Theory” was commissioned by the Barbican in London, where it opened in August 2020. After traveling to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark (April 2–May 30, 2021), the exhibition is concluding in Washington at the Hirshhorn.

The visual presentation will be accompanied by “Ceremonies Within,” a cinematic immersive soundscape created by Ghanaian-British conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye in response to Ojih Odutola’s drawings.

Following “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where the artist presented 17 works in 2017-18, the Hirshhorn is billing “A Countervailing Theory” as her first “major” solo museum exhibition in the United States.

“We are excited to be the only North American venue for this profound work by Toyin Ojih Odutola, who stands as one of the most consequential artists of our time,” Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu said in a statement.

“The exhibition celebrates the power of storytelling through art, and it is an apt tribute that Ojih Odutola’s installation will welcome visitors back to our newly reopened museum this fall. CT

 

IMAGES: Top of page, TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “To See and To Know; Future Lovers from A Countervailing Theory” (2019). | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Above left, Portrait of Toyin Ojih Odutola. | Photo by Beth Wilkinson. © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

 

“Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory” will be on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., from Nov. 19, 2021-April 3, 2022

 

FIND MORE Mark Bradford’s “Pickford’s Charge” remains on view at the Hirshhorn (when the museum reopens Aug. 20, 2021) on the institution’s third level, one floor above Toyin Ojih Odutola’s forthcoming exhibition

READ MORE The Hirshhorn plans an outdoor installation by Nicolas Party covering the entire building and is embarking on a redesign of its sculpture garden by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “Establishing the Plot from A Countervailing Theory” (2019). | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “Introductions: Early Embodiment (Koba) from A Countervailing Theory,” 2019. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “A Parting Gift; Hers and Hers, Only from A Countervailing Theory,” 2019. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “To be Chosen and Not Known from A Countervailing Theory,” 2019-20. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “To the Next Outpost from A Countervailing Theory, 2019. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “The Ruling Class (Eshu) from A Countervailing Theory,” 2019. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 


TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA, “A Forbidden Impulse from A Countervailing Theory,” 2019. | © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

BOOKSHELF
“Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory” was published to accompany the traveling exhibition. A major new publication, “Toyin Ojih Odutola: The UmuEze Amara Clan and the House of Obafemiis,” explores the artist’s best known body of work, a series of drawings exploring the private lives of two fictional aristocratic Nigerian families. The fully illustrated volume is forthcoming in September. An earlier publication, “A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola,” documents the artist’s 2017 exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

 

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