There’s a strange reversal of impression that occurs when looking at the work of Toyin Odutola. The initial impact of stark inky black figures and faces, set against a crisp white background, gives way to an overall feeling of depth and subtlety. The eyes of the portrait subjects lock on you, and it’s that gaze that trumps the stylistic effects that you’d first noticed in the image.
Odutola’s drawings, done in pen ink, have a singular attention to detail. While abstracting and stylizing skin texture, musculature, and hair; the images achieve a sense of realism, feeling as if drawn from photo-reference. The portraits have overtones of race and gender politics, but never succumb to simple messaging.
The Nigerian-born artist, currently completing her MFA at The California College of the Arts, is showing at Jack Shainman Gallery, Oct 13 – Nov 12 in Geoffrey Chadsey, Toyin Odutola and Articfacts From Nagaland