The experience [of moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Alabama] shaped me in a way no other locale would have; I became more adept in detecting the shades of my otherness in various spaces—more privy to the subtleties of privilege and prejudice as well as language. This helped me become more acutely aware of the implications of selfhood and how context defines and shifts one’s sense of purpose and belonging. I desperately needed to understand what this meant and how best to articulate it for myself, to be more informed and prepared for what was now my life. I wasn’t a natural writer and miscalculations were a constant. However, in the realm of the visual I found a home, and that has been my way of understanding the world onward. — Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s first exhibition in Britain—A COUNTERVAILING THEORY, now on view at the Barbican—is “an exploration of social hierarchies and the consequences of transgressing power dynamics. The story unravels across the 90-meter stretch of the gallery, each of the forty new works [pastel, charcoal, and chalk drawings on linen] charting an episode, akin to a graphic novel writ large on the walls.”*

For this Barbican commission, the artist collaborated with conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye to create “an immersive soundscape that evolves throughout the space as the story unfolds.”* The exhibition catalog includes a new essay by Zadie Smith and an interview with the artist by exhibition curator Lotte Johnson.


Through January 24, 2021.

The Curve—Barbican Centre

Silk Street, Barbican, London.

Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory, Barbican Art Gallery, August 11, 2020–January 11, 2021, from top: Semblance of Certainty, 2019; A Parting Gift; His and Hers, Only, 2019; Introductions: Early Embodiment, 2019; To See and To Know; Future Lovers, 2019; Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory exhibition catalog (2), inside view and cover image, courtesy and © the artist, Zadie Smith, Barbican Art Gallery, and Jack Shainman Gallery. Images courtesy and © the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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