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Toyin Ojih Odutola's first U.K. exhibition, A Countervailing Theory, recently opened at the Barbican Centre in London (11 August–24 January 2020).

Spotlight: Toyin Ojih Odutola at London's Barbican Centre

Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory (2020). Exhibition view: The Curve, Barbican Centre, London (11 August 2020–24 January 2021). © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: Tim Whitby/ Getty Images.

Over the last few years, the Nigerian-American artist has created a body of figurative drawings in charcoal and pastel that now hang on the museum's curved wall, amidst an unsettling immersive soundscape by Peter Adjaye.

Ojih Odutola casts herself as an archaeologist who, upon discovering evidence of an ancient civilisation in Nigeria, deduces that a female-led society existed here in the past.

Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory (2020). Exhibition view: The Curve, Barbican Centre, London (11 August 2020–24 January 2021). © Toyin Ojih Odutola.

Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory (2020). Exhibition view: The Curve, Barbican Centre, London (11 August 2020–24 January 2021). © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: Max Colson.

Themes of colonisation, race, and gender politics are at the forefront of Ojih Odutola's mind, but it's the startling beauty of the details—glistening jewellery, armoured garments, and sparkling eyes—combined with poetic moments of intimacy that humanise this work so touchingly.

It's hard to recall a group of paintings installed in a room that resonate in such a powerfully emotive manner since Chris Ofili's The Upper Room at Tate Britain in 2005.—[O]

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