Hirshhorn Presents Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory

By Editorial Team on November 15, 2021
Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
On View: November 19 – April 3, 2022

This fall, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present “A Countervailing Theory,” a major exhibition of work by Toyin Ojih Odutola (born Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1985), Nov. 19–April 3, 2022. The exhibition features a recent body of work in the form of a monumental cycle of 40 large-scale, monochromatic drawings that chronicle a myth conceived by the artist. The installation will span the entirety of the museum’s circular inner galleries on its second floor, nearly 400 linear feet.

Ojih Odutola is known for investigating the relationship between drawing and storytelling, using materials such as pastel, charcoal and chalk to communicate elaborate, fictional narratives of her own creation. With this series, she explores how mark-making can open up pathways to new meanings. By fluidly shifting between the imaginary and the real, Ojih Odutola incorporates an unconventional approach to drawing material and surface, specifically working with white and grey materials on a black ground.

The fictional mythology underpinning “A Countervailing Theory” chronicles a prehistoric civilization ruled by female warriors known as the Eshu who are served by a class of male laborers known as the Koba. Set within a landscape inspired by the distinctive rock formations of Plateau State in central Nigeria, the drawings are presented as scans of shale tablets unearthed in an archaeological dig, which offer a glimpse of this ancient society. Ojih Odutola pulls from a range of sources, both historic and contemporary, to carefully draw viewers into an allegorical tale about systems of power, culture, gender and history.

Ojih Odutola’s work will be accompanied by Ghanaian-British conceptual sound artist Peter Adjaye’s cinematic immersive soundscape, “Ceremonies Within.” Adjaye’s response to Ojih Odutola’s drawings builds upon the references within her work to evoke the plateau landscape through a combination of instrumental and natural sounds. Previously on view at the Barbican (Aug. 11, 2020–Jan. 24) and Kunsten Museum of Modern Art (April 2–May 30), the Hirshhorn will be the exhibition’s final stop on its global tour.

“Toyin Ojih Odutola: A Countervailing Theory” was commissioned by the Barbican, London and supported by Arts Council England and Jack Shainman Gallery. The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark, and the Hirshhorn.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is located at Independence Ave and 7th St.

The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.