For more than half a century Tamarind has been offering residencies to up-and-coming artists, hoping to lure them into prolonged engagement with lithography (and to give Tamarind printers-in-training exposure to disparate artistic aims and approaches). It can be hit-or-miss, and Toyin Odutola is very young (she just received her MFA this year), but one glance at her ink drawings, with their brilliantly carved silhouettes and scattered moments of sinewy shine, was probably enough to convince Tamarind to lay odds on her printmaking.
Odutola’s residency was part of a larger Tamarind project that brought together artists of African descent from Brazil and the United States. (Odutola was born in Nigeria, grew up in Alabama, and lives in California.) Implicit in such a project are themes of displacement and otherness. Odutola, however, is less interested in blackness as a foil to whiteness, but as something in and of itself—a color, a graphic device, a cultural identity. This is a set of concerns ready-made for print processes. Two of the prints she did at Tamarind were black on white and dynamically graphic. Two other images, however, were released in both black-and-white and color versions. But while “color lithograph” usually suggests something more vibrant than its binary cousin, Odutola has used blue and brown to replace contrast and clarity with a kind of twilight shine. Forms loom out of darkness rather than asserting themselves as pattern.
In these images Odutola challenges the assumption that the black marks disrupting white surfaces is some universal norm. It’s an idea with profound implications.