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Art doesn’t have to be over the top or convoluted to be radical. The best pieces, like that from Toyin Ojih Odutola’s To Wander Determined exhibit, have inherent messages embedded below the surface. Her portraits, drawn in charcoal, pastels, and pencil, are of two Nigerian families donning stylish contemporary clothes in opulent spaces.

The drawings seem more like photographs or snapshots into the day to day life of wealthy families. What makes these images so profound is how they depict wealth in relation to blackness as ordinary. Her work is not ostentatious or overtly political. In that, she’s able to use blackness as a tool to normalize wealth without perpetuating concepts of exoticism or otherness often associated with black art. In her work, black skin is not tied to racial stereotypes, nor used for entertainment. The uninhibited nature of the images translate as real, even if in reality, wealth is seen as a paradox to blackness.

Challenging Blackness in Art—and Racism in Trump’s America

Artist Toyin Ojih Odutola discusses Trump’s views on immigration, the faults of correlating wealth to power, the Back Lives Matter movement, and blackness as a dangerous construct.


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