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THE D R AWI N G CENTER

For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn


The Drawing Center October 12, 2018 – February 3, 2019 Main Gallery


For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn

Organized by Claire Gilman with Amber Harper


D R AW I N G PA P E R S 13 8

Contributions by Elijah Burgher, Claire Gilman, Édouard Glissant, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn


Director’s Foreword

Since The Drawing Center’s inception in 1977, group exhibitions of emerging artists have been central to the institution’s exhibition program. Featuring three young portraitists—Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn—For Opacity fits squarely into this tradition. Yet it is also an exhibition about ideas: a fierce argument for the capacity of art to serve as a vehicle for self-definition. Each of these artists creates wildly different kinds of work, but curator Claire Gilman’s astute mind has discerned a through line visible using the lens of the great Caribbean critic Édouard Glissant’s landmark essay entitled “For Opacity.” In this work, first published in 1990, Glissant makes the compelling argument that what he calls Opacity—the decision not to be defined as Other—is a right that should be accessible to everyone. Organizing an exhibition around an idea that bears no direct relationship to its participants can be a tricky business, but Gilman, with the help of former Assistant Curator Amber Harper (and the participation of all three artists), has built a show that doesn’t merely illustrate Glissant’s argument for the freedom to self-define but

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enacts it. Each drawing in the show demonstrates a fulfillment of Glissant’s cry for “the right to opacity for everyone.” On behalf of The Drawing Center I would like to thank all three artists in the exhibition. Their participation has exceeded mere display of their own works, instead broadening to include substantial participation in the exhibition’s catalogue and in its meaningful installation. The thrill of sharing their timely works of art with a broader audience has been multiplied for all of us by the magic of their intellectual collaboration with the curator and with one another. —Laura Hoptman Executive Director

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Curator’s Acknowledgments

First, I would like to thank the artists Elijah Burgher, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Toyin Ojih Odutola for their profound work and words. I am amazed by what they do and honored to have collaborated with them on this exhibition. I am incredibly grateful to a few key individuals who have made this show possible. At the Nathaniel Mary Quinn Studio, I am indebted to the amazing Donna Augustin-Quinn for her continuous support and dedication to this show. At Jack Shainman, I am profoundly grateful to Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels who was endlessly patient with all my questions and requests for information. I would also like to thank Harry Feldman at Jack Shainman, Scott Speh at Western Exhibitions, and Sean Horton at Horton Gallery for their enthusiasm and quick answers. My gratitude also goes to the University of Michigan Press for granting permission to reproduce Édouard Glissant’s essay “For Opacity” in this publication.

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At The Drawing Center, I thank the entire hard-working staff. Amber Harper, former Assistant Curator, deserves special recognition for putting her heart and mind into all aspects of this show and book. Finally, I would like to express my deep gratitude for the support of The Drawing Center’s Board of Trustees as well as the funders who have supported this exhibition and its accompanying publication: Almine Rech Gallery; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Anderson Cooper; Fairfax Dorn and Marc Glimcher; Stephanie and Timothy Ingrassia; Jack Shainman Gallery; Kathleen Madden and Paul Frantz; Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson; Noel E. D. Kirnon; Thomas Lavin; Fiona and Eric Rudin; Beth Rudin DeWoody and Firooz Zahedi; Salon 94; Neil Tennant; Dr. Daniel S. Berger and Scott Wenthe; Rashid Johnson; M+B; P•P•O•W; Rhona Hoffman Gallery; Half Gallery; and Western Exhibitions. —Claire Gilman, Chief Curator

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For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn Claire Gilman

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“Agree not merely to the right to difference but . . . agree also to the right to opacity . . .” 1 —édouard glissant The exhibition For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn brings together three young artists—Burgher (b. 1978, Kingston, NY), Ojih Odutola (b. 1985, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) and Quinn (b. 1977, Chicago, IL)—each of whom explores diverse identities through portraiture and does so almost exclusively through the medium of drawing. This, at least, is the superficial justification for this three-person show, requisite as it so often is with exhibitions of this kind to offer commonalities between artists’ backgrounds and the nature of the subjects represented. And commonalities do exist between these artists insofar as each stands outside the dominant American power structure in a singular manner: Ojih Odutola, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, came to the United States at age five; Quinn is a “survivor” of the crime-ridden Robert Taylor housing project in Bronzeville, Chicago; and Burgher identifies as a gay, white male whose work explores queer sexuality.2 And yet, this is emphatically not a show about identity. On the contrary, it is a show about the right to refuse self-revelation and classification. It is a show about the right to not be understood and still demand respect; to take one’s place in the world and simply be. The title for the show comes from a 1990 essay by the Martinique-born, Paris-educated theorist Édouard Glissant who, it should be noted, writes from his own diasporic perspective. Addressing the Caribbean experience and the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized more generally, Glissant argues that the oppressed—or the historically constructed Other—can and should be allowed to exist as different and unassimilated. 1

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Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity,” in Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 190. Originally published as Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990). Quinn often speaks of his coming-of-age story as traumatic. See the following: Mike Pepi, “Vision Quest: An Artist Channels His Past Through His Painting,” Modern Painters 27, no. 9 (September 2015): 44–46. Quinn, “Q & A: Nathaniel Mary Quinn,” interview by Bill Powers, ARTnews 116, no. 2 (Summer 2016): 24–26. Sam Worley, “Nathaniel Mary Quinn Transforms His Fractured Past into Arresting Art,” Chicago Magazine, September 5, 2017, http://www.chicagomag.com/ Chicago-Magazine/September-2017/Nathaniel-Mary-Quinn-Nothings-Funny/.


Historically, he explains, with the perception of difference comes the demand for transparency, so that the colonizer can fit the colonized into his cognitive schema and thereby retain dominance. In contrast to this model, Glissant argues for a right to exist outside of any comparative scale or aspiration toward familiarity, a condition he terms “opacity.” In Glissant’s words: “Agree not merely to the right to difference but, carrying this further, agree also to the right to opacity that is not enclosure within an impenetrable autarchy but subsistence within an irreducible singularity. . . . For the time being, perhaps give up this old obsession with discovering what lies at the bottom of natures.”3 He concludes: “The opaque is not the obscure, though it is possible for it to be so and be accepted as such. It is that which cannot be reduced, which is the most perennial guarantee of participation and confluence. . . . We clamor for the right to opacity for everyone.”4 Although Glissant is writing about a specific historical situation, his argument has universal resonance. Indeed, his text is especially urgent these days when animus toward what is perceived as other, whether it be racial, sexual, national, or otherwise, is so palpably on display. Moreover, Glissant’s argument finds echoes in the contemporary discourse around the dangers of empathy— specifically, that espoused by white people for black subjects—as it has been outlined in the work of Saidiya Hartman, Sadhana Bery, and Laura Berlant, among others.5 For example, in the recent panel “A Diagnostic of Whiteness: The Empathy Conundrum,” organized by The Racial Imaginary Institute (headed by poet Claudia Rankine), Bery explained how white empathy functions as a practice of consumptive identification to produce in whites a feeling of good will toward themselves while denying black presence and placing blacks “in a zone of non-being.”6 On the flip 3 4 5

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Glissant, “For Opacity,” 190. Glissant, “For Opacity,” 191–94. Lauren Berlant, Sadhana Bery, Jane Caflisch, Lori Gruen, and Saidiya Hartman, “A Diagnostic of Whiteness: The Empathy Conundrum” (On Whiteness: A Symposium, a panel discussion presented by the Racial Imaginary Institute at The Kitchen, New York, NY, June 30, 2018). See also Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). Ibid.


side, Berlant observed that “aggressive withholding,” or the refusal to explain oneself when called upon to do so, is a central tenet of any position of privilege, one that is denied the powerless who are required to accommodate without being allowed to perform similar acts of self-protection.7 Finally, Glissant’s texts have been instrumental in the queer community where the celebration of free expression and the liberatory act of “coming out of the closet” is matched by an equally passionate embrace of secrecy and radical detachment.8 In all these situations, the obduracy of withholding becomes a critical stance. Notably, Glissant clarifies that pursuing opacity does not mean embracing isolation. Instead, he argues that opacity is the precise prerequisite for respectful coexistence or, what he refers to as “Relation, in freedoms.” Opacity secures a totality in which individuals reside together in “irreducible singularity.”9 It is this dynamic that undergirds The Drawing Center’s exhibition of three artists with distinct stylistic approaches and personal backgrounds yet aligned by the way in which they use drawing to render subjects who resist clarification. Facing each other within a symmetrical gallery space, the drawings of Burgher, Ojih Odutola, and Quinn are given discrete and equal room. At the same time, autonomy is disrupted with each artist’s work occupying multiple, interspersed walls. In this way, a separation and commingling occurs both within and among the individual artists and their exhibited works. Meanwhile, the viewer must move around the fractured space to gain any kind of “complete” picture. In the end, completeness is elusive both in the individual artist’s work and in the exhibition as a whole, which stages neither a gathering of cohorts, nor a collection of isolated practices, but rather a convergence of singularities in the Glissantian sense. It is not incidental that the For Opacity artists work almost exclusively in drawing (apart from Burgher’s hanging tarps, 7 8

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Ibid. For an analysis of Glissant in relationship to queer identity see Anna T., “The Opacity of Queer Languages,” e-flux journal 60 (December 2014), https://www.e-flux.com/ journal/60/61064/the-opacity-of-queer-languages/. Glissant, “For Opacity,” 190.


Quinn alone makes works on canvas) and that all three emphasize drawing’s material resistance. Burgher, whose implement of choice is color pencil, argues for the tool’s stubborn persistence—the fact that it can’t be “rework[ed] . . . over and over and over.”10 Similarly, in interviews, Quinn speaks about the weight and tension that accompanies the drawn line and the pleasure he takes in confronting the particular drag of each different tool, be it charcoal, graphite, or pastel. As Quinn quipped to me: “Mr. Pastel, I respect your ability to produce this on paper. I don’t understand, but I respect and embrace you.”11 For her part, Ojih Odutola is equally adamant about the appeal of drawing’s material weight and texture, and the unfamiliarity that necessarily accompanies the drawn gesture. Of the tendency for viewers to see the artist in her own work, Ojih Odutola counters: “I’ve always looked at things in the third person when I work. . . . It has nothing to do [with me]. It’s about the marks.”12 Burgher also speaks about the independent nature of drawing, something he attributes to the medium’s inherent duality. Both present and immediate—“I was here,” asserts the graffito— drawing’s visible temporality also ensures its fundamental absence. Indeed, drawing literally manifests the passage of time in the form of the line extending from one point to another. Moreover, according to Burgher, drawing is haunted by its historical status as preparatory, a condition that positions its true subject or purpose as beyond the surface and out of reach. In his essay “Drawing is my Boyfriend,” Burgher observes: “Today a drawing might also claim some specificity, autonomy even, but it is never really only itself. . . . The world is always sneaking in, getting stuck in its craw. . . . I’d also add, though, that a drawing’s content is always held at arm’s length, not only because of the structure of representation, but

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Elijah Burgher, “Bachelors. A Q&A with Elijah Burgher,” interview by Mary Hurt, Quiet Lunch, June 19, 2015, http://quietlunch.com/ bachelors-a-qa-with-elijah-burgher/. Nathaniel Mary Quinn, conversation with the author, May 15, 2017. Toyin Ojih Odutola, “Traveling with Toyin Ojih Odutola,” interview by Emily McDermott, Interview Magazine, December 20, 2015, https://www. interviewmagazine.com/art/toyin-odutola-of-context-and-without/.


because of the aforementioned promise of application—in the future and elsewhere, in real time and space, in life.”13 So how exactly do Burgher’s drawings manifest this attendant promise and refusal, this meaning both suggested and deferred? First and foremost, through the cool precision of his hand, the painstaking accuracy with which he applies his color pencil whether in the service of male nudes or abstract symbols. The latter Burgher identifies as sigils, private motifs readable only to the maker unless shared with others and, even then, only for as long as they can be remembered. A product of twentieth-century occult magic (although variations have been used since the Neolithic era), sigils were adopted by the artist and his friends ten years ago as a way of encoding queer desire.14 In this sense, they relate to the queer community’s privileging of secrecy and private initiation. Made public in Burgher’s drawings, they are recognizable to those familiar with sigil magic as, Burgher says, “visual manifestations of an unwillingness to reveal.”15 Executed in cool pastel hues on utterly flat grounds that look like children’s game boards, in Burgher’s drawings they register as signifiers of opacity itself, all the more so when they serve as backdrops for the artist’s equally impenetrable figures. Consider the Bachelor series from 2015 in which Burgher conscripted friends to play parts in a make-believe visual cult [PLS. 4, 5]. Set against fields of sigils, the nudes stand straight, eyes askance, framed against ornamental abstract fields like mannerist saints. These figures register through their profound stillness—a tranquility, and accompanying emotional neutrality, that grants them protection from the viewer’s gaze even as their bodies are unsparingly on display. Like characters in a fiction, Burgher’s subjects are both undeniably present and fundamentally absent, accepting exposure while refusing psychological penetration. Indeed, if they are objects of our gaze, they are equally subjects of their own realms. Here,

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Elijah Burgher, “Drawing is my Boyfriend,” Ghost Vomit (blog), February 6, 2013, http://ghostvomit.blogspot.com/2013/02/drawing-is-my-boyfriend.html. For more on the origin of sigils, see Austin Osman Spare, The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love). The Psychology of Ecstasy (London: Self-Published, 1913). Burgher, conversation with the author, May 7, 2018.


mutuality is predicated on detachment, shifting our relationship with the other from one of control and consumption to one of distanced reception in which we are equally viewer and viewed. Burgher has recently expressed an interest in rendering the sigils in three-dimensional form, and his most recent drawing, Youth in a window (prism, mirror, lens) (2018), represents a prelude of sorts [PL. 11]. Here, a figure who Burgher describes as part self-portrait, part former unrequited love interest, looks out from behind sigil-esque window bars that he delicately fingers. In this way, the hybrid protagonist is both seen against, and sees through, a cryptic ground; this frame of manifest withholding is the lens through which he navigates the world. Unlike Burgher who approaches his portraits with marked restraint, Quinn brings a palpable intimacy and vulnerability to his subjects who typically find their genesis in individuals from the artist’s life, particularly from his self-described traumatic upbringing in the Robert Taylor Homes public housing complex in South Chicago. Memory’s elusiveness is central to Quinn’s drawings, which he envisions in his head rather than relying on sketches or outside sources such as photographs. The resulting protagonists assume a composite, collage-like appearance of stitched-together facial features and body parts (both human and animal) to create fractured wholes. For Quinn, an absence of hierarchy is more than a visual strategy: it is an ethical one. As he puts it, “Nothing is more or less important than anything else; neither the gorilla arm, nor the pig nose, nor the elephant feet. Nothing is the ‘clue’ that unlocks the puzzle. They [the subjects] just exist. They possess the right to exist. Why can’t they just have that right without trying to explain themselves?”16 Indeed, Quinn’s particular skill lies in his ability to render his motley cast of characters deeply human even as his eclectic sources and fractured surfaces prohibit any kind of fixed identity. This is true of both his small portraits of tightly cropped faces and of his larger, more expansive compositions. In the smaller works, cartoon-like elements such as the speech-bubble nose in Pilcher (2015) [PL. 30]

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Quinn, conversation with the author, May 15, 2017.


or the Lichtenstein-style mouth in The Comedian (2017) [PL. 35] are rendered poignantly animate when paired with glistening charcoal eyes. At the same time, these manifestly fictional elements—consider such ornamental details as the gold leaf that divides the comedian’s forehead, the painted flowers that grace Pilcher’s hat, or the confetti that floats over Fixin to Eat (2017)—serve as surface adornments that protect their subjects from the viewer’s penetrating gaze [PL. 37]. Like pieces of an ever-shifting puzzle, these elements are less vehicles of disguise than integral parts of a composite identity that proudly refuses to give itself away. This resolution achieves full expression in the large-scale Elephant Feet (2016) in which a female figure, sporting an enormous fur coat and supported by the titular elephant feet, stands pyramid-like on a gray ground against a stark white backdrop [PL. 33]. This figure is comically incongruous with her fake fur, school-girl plaid skirt, and enormous red silk bow, yet she sports these items confidently. Like all of Quinn’s subjects, she literally defies coherence. However, with her firmly set mouth and stolid, forward-facing frame, she governs her nameless habitat and requires that we accept her on her own terms. The relationship between subjecthood and place is also a central preoccupation of Ojih Odutola whose work, like Quinn’s, embraces a broad material range. Graphite, white and black charcoal, ballpoint pen, pastel, color pencil, and marker, each are used at various moments both to articulate their subjects—quite specifically, their variegated skin tones and clothing textures—and to disrupt easy categorization. “[W]hen I started working with black, ballpoint pen ink,” Ojih Odutola explains in a recent interview, “it was to get at this concept of Black skin that I could not wrap my head around. I wanted to usurp this notion of Blackness as a monolithic entity and break it into something looser . . . The more multifaceted I could get the skin to be, the more I felt that the skin could be removed from staid interpretations and into something more neutral.”17 In 2015, Ojih Odutola took this exploration further when executing a group

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Ojih Odutola, “Toyin Ojih Odutola’s ‘Of Context and Without’ at Jack Shainman,” interview by Emory Lopiccolo, Whitewall, January 26, 2016, https://www.whitewall. art/art/toyin-ojih-odutolas-of-context-and-without-at-jack-shainman/.


of portraits of unnamed, famous white men in black pen against white grounds [PLS. 15–20], as well as another series of individuals culled from an amalgam of sources in white charcoal on black grounds [PL. 14]. Delineating the subjects’ faces with dense, ropy strokes while leaving their hair and clothing unfinished, the figures possess an eerie familiarity coupled with a frustrating uniformity that thwarts the viewer’s inclination to seek comfortable identifiers, not least among them race. But Ojih Odutola’s intention goes beyond unsettling stereotypes. Rather, the attention she pays to surface, and to the volatile, shimmering facets that result, encourages a new way of seeing and knowing, one that she herself does not fully control. In her words: “The style I employ for the skin is riddled with tensions inherent in the mark-making, and I always like to tease those tensions out slightly, playing with the places and crevices of the skin’s form—for the skin is a bit of a puzzle I’m trying to solve. . . . When I am drawing the skin, I am mapping out a territory, which seems familiar to me but is always strange and foreign whenever I engage with it.”18 Ojih Odutola’s use of geographical terminology here is not accidental. Indeed, she employs this kind of language frequently when talking about her work. Consider, for example, her reference to “the portrait as a platform for creating a sense of place”19 or her observation in a recent interview that “the skin in the drawings I create was initially an investigation into what skin felt like, to live in that space . . .” She concludes: “The act of drawing for me is a cultivating act. . . . Each drawing I create is my way of crafting a home for myself . . .”20 What is crucial here is the emphasis on cultivation as an act of staking a place quite apart from the specific nature of what is being represented. We are reminded here of Quinn’s call for his subjects’ simple “right to exist” and, indeed,

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Ojih Odutola, “Toyin Ojih Odutola: Infinite Possibility,” interview by Kristin Farr, Juxtapoz, September 29, 2017, https://www.juxtapoz.com/news/magazine/features/ behind-the-cover-toyin-ojih-odutola/. Ojih Odutola, “Toyin Odutola Discusses New York, Artistic Influences and the Wonders of Ballpoint,” interview by Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type, February, 22, 2015, https://www.culturetype.com/2015/02/22/ toyin-odutola-discusses-new-york-artistic-influences-and-the-wonders-of-ballpoint/. Ojih Odutola, “Toyin Ojih Odutola: Infinite Possibility.”


Ojih Odutola’s drawings are less psychological studies than explorations of physical relationships—whether within the body itself or, in her later drawings, between the individual and her or his environment. Paris Apartment (2016–17), for example, depicts a tapestry-like ensemble in which the elegant protagonist is both immediately central, her arcing neck confidently offsetting the horizontal architecture behind her, and simply one element among many, her dappled skin and filigree dress of a piece with the leafy mantel and paisley wallpaper [PL. 22]. Similarly, the turbaned girl in Compound Leaf (2017) is literally imprinted on her space [PL. 23]. Her profile casts an exaggerated shadow on the wall while simultaneously seeming to caress the wood molding whose soft brown hue perfectly matches that of her own skin. These individuals are unmistakably at home. Significantly, within these arrangements, the viewer is incidental. The woman in Paris Apartment looks blithely over our heads while the protagonist of Compound Leaf literally turns into the wall, the physical and spiritual occupant of her own world. These figures are not here for our entertainment or edification, they simply are. And that is more than enough. In Ojih Odutola’s words: “I am not this narrative that has been written about me, flattened and archetypal, I am my own person, a land that I now wish to take back. Here, I will show you. Do not omit me or render me invisible . . . I am here, I will not be erased or smudged out. I am as vast and wondrous as the night sky.”21 This sentiment is true for all of the artists and subjects of For Opacity. To reinvoke Glissant: “We clamor for the right to opacity for everyone.”22

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Ojih Odutola, “Interview with Artist Toyin Odutola,” interview by Natascha Chtena, Think Africa Press (blog), May 30, 2011, http://www.jackshainman.com/ files/1515/3124/3587/Odutola_Press_Kit_small.pdf. Glissant, “For Opacity,” 194.


For Opacity

Édouard Glissant

Several years back, if I made the statement, “We demand the right to opacity,” or argued in favor of this, whoever I was speaking to would exclaim indignantly: “Now it’s back to barbarism! How can you communicate with what you don’t understand?” But in 1989, and before very diverse audiences, when the same demand was formulated, it aroused new interest. Who knows? Maybe, in the meanwhile, the topicality of the question of differences (the right to difference) had been exhausted. The theory of difference is invaluable. It has allowed us to struggle against the reductive thought produced, in genetics for example, by the presumption of racial excellence or superiority. Albert Jacquard (Éloge de la différence, Éditions du Seuil, 1978) dismantled the mechanisms of this barbaric notion and demonstrated how ridiculous it was to claim a “scientific” basis for them. (I call the reversal and exasperation of self barbaric and just as inconceivable as the cruel results of these mechanisms.) This theory has also made it possible to take in, perhaps, not their existence but at least the rightful entitlement to recognition of the minorities swarming throughout the world and the defense of their status. (I call “rightful” the escape far from any legitimacy anchored silently or resolutely in possession and conquest.)

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But difference itself can still contrive to reduce things to the Transparent. If we examine the process of “understanding” people and ideas from the perspective of Western thought, we discover that its basis is this requirement for transparency. In order to understand and thus accept you, I have to measure your solidity with the ideal scale providing me with grounds to make comparisons and, perhaps, judgments. I have to reduce.1 Accepting differences does, of course, upset the hierarchy of this scale. I understand your difference, or in other words, without creating a hierarchy, I relate it to my norm. I admit you to existence, within my system. I create you afresh. —But perhaps we need to bring an end to the very notion of a scale. Displace all reduction. Agree not merely to the right to difference but, carrying this further, agree also to the right to opacity that is not enclosure within an impenetrable autarchy but subsistence within an irreducible singularity. Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics. To understand these truly one must focus on the texture of the weave and not on the nature of its components. For the time being, perhaps, give up this old obsession with discovering what lies at the bottom of natures. There would be something great and noble about initiating such a movement, referring not to Humanity but to the exultant divergence of humanities. Thought of self and thought of other here become obsolete in their duality. Every Other is a citizen and no longer a barbarian. What is here is open, as much as this there. I would be incapable of projecting from one to the other. This-here is the weave, and it weaves no boundaries. The right to opacity would not establish autism; it would be the real foundation of Relation, in freedoms.

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Comprehension could, of course, be translated as “comprehension” to point out the root connection with the French word comprendre, which I have earlier rendered as “to grasp” or, when the sense is mechanical, as “to comprehend” (and once, at Glissant’s behest, as “to integrate”). In American English, however, the controlling attitude implied in this particular instance, vis-à-vis other people or cultures, is more apparent in understanding than in comprehension. Trans.


And now what they tell me is, “You calmly pack your poetics into these craters of opacity and claim to rise so serenely beyond the prodigiously elucidating work that the West has accomplished, but there you go talking nonstop about this West.” —“And what would you rather I talk about at the beginning, if not this transparency whose aim was to reduce us? Because, if I don’t begin there, you will see me consumed with the sullen jabber of childish refusal, convulsive and powerless. This is where I start. As for my identity, I’ll take care of that myself.” There has to be dialogue with the West, which, moreover is contradictory in itself (usually this is the argument raised when I talk about cultures of the One); the complementary discourse of whoever wants to give-on-and-with must be added to the West. And can you not see that we are implicated in its evolution? Merely consider the hypothesis of a Christian Europe, convinced of its legitimacy, rallied together in its reconstituted universality, having once again, therefore, transformed its forces into a “universal” value—triangulated with the technological strength of the United States and the financial sovereignty of Japan—and you will have some notion of the silence and indifference that for the next fifty years (if it is possible thus to estimate) surround the problems, the dependencies and the chaotic sufferings of the countries of the south with nothingness. And also consider that the West itself has produced the variables to contradict its impressive trajectory every time. This is the way in which the West is not monolithic, and this is why it is surely necessary that it move toward entanglement. The real question is whether it will do so in a participatory manner or if its entanglement will be based on old impositions. And even if we should have no illusions about the realities, their facts already begin to change simply by asking this question. The opaque is not the obscure, though it is possible for it to be so and be accepted as such. It is that which cannot be reduced, which is the most perennial guarantee of participation and confluence. We are far from the opacities of Myth or Tragedy, whose obscurity was accompanied by exclusion and whose transparency aimed at

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“grasping.� In this version of understanding the verb to grasp contains the movement of hands that grab their surroundings and bring them back to themselves. A gesture of enclosure if not appropriation. Let our understanding prefer the gesture of giving-on-and-with that opens finally on totality. At this point I need to explain what I mean by this totality I have made so much noise about. It is the idea itself of totality, as expressed so superbly in Western thought, that is threatened with immobility. We have suggested that Relation is an open totality evolving upon itself. That means that, thought of in this manner, it is the principle of unity that we subtract from this idea. In Relation the whole is not the finality of its parts: for multiplicity in totality is totally diversity. Let us say this again, opaquely: the idea of totality alone is an obstacle to totality. We have already articulated the poetic force. We see it as radiant— replacing the absorbing concept of unity; it is the opacity of the diverse animating the imagined transparency of Relation. The imaginary does not bear with it the coercive requirements of idea. It prefigures reality, without determining it a priori. The thought of opacity distracts me from absolute truths whose guardian I might believe myself to be. Far from cornering me within futility and inactivity, by making me sensitive to the limits of every method, it relativizes every possibility of every action within me. Whether this consists of spreading overarching general ideas or hanging on to the concrete, the law of facts, the precision of details, or sacrificing some apparently less important thing in the name of efficacy, the thought of opacity saves me from unequivocal courses and irreversible choices. As far as my identity is concerned, I will take care of it myself. That is, I shall not allow it to become cornered in any essence; I shall also pay attention to not mixing it into any amalgam. Rather, it does not disturb me to accept that there are places where my identity is obscure to me, and the fact that it amazes me does not mean I relinquish it. Human behaviors are fractal in nature. If we become conscious of this and give up trying to reduce such behaviors to

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the obviousness of a transparency, this will, perhaps, contribute to lightening their load, as every individual begins not grasping his own motivations, taking himself apart in this manner. The rule of action (what is called ethics or else the ideal or just logical relation) would gain ground—as an obvious fact—by not being mixed into the preconceived transparency of universal models. The rule of every action, individual or community, would gain ground by perfecting itself through the experience of Relation. It is the network that expresses the ethics. Every moral doctrine is a utopia. But this morality would only become a utopia if Relation itself had sunk into an absolute excessiveness of Chaos. The wager is that Chaos is order and disorder, excessiveness with no absolute, fate and evolution. I thus am able to conceive of the opacity of the other for me, without reproach for my opacity for him. To feel in solidarity with him or to build with him or to like what he does, it is not necessary for me to grasp him. It is not necessary to try to become the other (to become other) nor to “make” him in my image. These projects of transmutation—without metempsychosis—have resulted from the worst pretensions and the greatest of magnanimities on the part of West. They describe the fate of Victor Segalen. The death of Segalen is not just a physiological outcome. We recall his confiding, in the last days of his life, about the slovenliness of his body, whose illness he was unable to diagnose and whose decline he was unable to control. No doubt it will be known, with a list of his symptoms and the help of medical progress, what he died of. And no doubt the people around him could say he died of some sort of generalized consumption. But I myself believe that he died of the opacity of the Other, of coming face to face with the impossibility of accomplishing the transmutation that he dreamed of. Like every European of his day, he was marked with a substantial, even if unconscious, dose of ethnocentrism. But he was also possessed, more than any of his contemporaries, by this absolute and incomplete generosity that drove him to realize himself elsewhere. He suffered from this accursed contradiction. Unable to know that a transfer into transparency ran counter to his project and that, on the contrary, respect for mutual forms of opacity would have

24


accomplished it, he was heroically consumed in the impossibility of being Other. Death is the outcome of the opacities, and this is why the idea of death never leaves us. On the other hand, if an opacity is the basis for a Legitimacy, this would be the sign of its having entered into a political dimension. A formidable prospect, less dangerous perhaps than the erring ways to which so many certainties and so many clear, so-called lucid truths have led. The excesses of these political assurances would fortunately be contained by the sense not that everything is futile but that there are limits to absolute truth. How can one point out these limits without lapsing into skepticism or paralysis? How can one reconcile the hard line inherent in any politics and the questioning essential to any relation? Only by understanding that it is impossible to reduce anyone, no matter who, to a truth he would not have generated on his own. That is, within the opacity of his time and place. Plato’s city is for Plato, Hegel’s vision is for Hegel, the griot’s town is for the griot. Nothing prohibits our seeing them in confluence, without confusing them in some magma or reducing them to each other. This same opacity is also the force that drives every community: the thing that would bring us together forever and make us permanently distinctive. Widespread consent to specific opacities is the most straightforward equivalent of nonbarbarism. We clamor for the right to opacity for everyone.

From Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation. Copyright © 1997 by University of Michigan Press. Reprinted by permission of University of Michigan Press.

25


The Limits of Likeness

Elijah Burgher

26


When I draw a particular person, I attempt to make a faithful representation, to capture a likeness. I find the latter expression funny—funny in the sense of warranting suspicion rather than causing amusement. The second listed definition of “capture” in the Oxford Dictionary is to “record accurately in words or pictures,” but the first one lends the aforementioned expression a foreboding undertone: to “take into one’s possession or control by force.”1 It’s as if, in capturing a likeness, one wrested a person’s appearance away from them, stripped a layer of it off them, perhaps robbed them of some of their power or essence. I’m reminded of the fear of photographic soul theft, as well as Sir James George Frazer’s first principle of sympathetic magic, the “Law of Similarity,” outlined in The Golden Bough: “Like produces like, or […] an effect resembles its cause,” whereby “the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it.”2 One could, accordingly, possess or control a person by making a forceful representation of them. As a teenager, I certainly made many drawings of boys, hoping I’d somehow induce them to fall in love with me by doing so. In addition to these ominous powers imputed to mimesis, I think of the less obviously sinister platitude concerning an artist’s special skill at parting the veil of mere appearances and grasping the essence of a subject. Here’s where the essay by Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity,” comes in for me. He writes about the attempt to know the Other as a covert power struggle, a subtle form of subjugation.3 The Other—their difference, their essence—is a substance to be grasped, penetrated, and probed: “If we examine the process of ‘understanding’ people and ideas from the perspective of Western thought, we discover that its basis is this requirement for transparency.”4 The expression “to capture a likeness” might then

1

2

3

4

27

Angus Stevenson, ed. Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University, 2010), s.v. “Capture.” Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990), 11. Throughout this volume, the authors have capitalized key terms following the example set forth in Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity.” Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity,” in Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 189–90. Originally published as Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990).


disclose a fraught mode of relation between self and Other (in this case artist and model) in which a struggle for mastery is at play. Glissant is discussing a postcolonial situation, but the gist of his argument resonates strongly with other accounts of violence-wracked relationality, like the queer and feminist revisions of psychoanalysis by Leo Bersani and Kaja Silverman, both of whom have been crucial for me in terms of thinking about sexuality and what I do in the studio, especially with regard to figuration. About eight years ago I started developing the way I currently draw figures. At the time I didn’t have a developed language or theoretical frame to describe what I wanted to do, but I used words like “blank,” “general,” “flat,” and “anti-psychological” in my studio journal trying to describe my goals. I also used the word “opaque.” I wanted to avoid both expressionism and naturalism, but I desired “specificity” and “particularity” for the figures. I was looking at mummy portraits, kouroi, and Manet. I wanted to show as much as possible of each figure’s appearance without “exposing” them, by which I mean creating likenesses that revealed too much of their personalities or psychologies. Their facial expressions tended to be muted and mask-like, and their gestures were either overly ambiguous or too simple to indicate any state of mind beyond attention focused in a particular direction. Not much else occurred in the drawings beside looking and touching, which is pretty much exactly what I was up to in the studio. I’m speaking in the past tense, but all of this remains true, albeit intensified and codified. It’s also important to note that calling them figures betrayed the fact that each was quite singular (another aspirational word I used at the time): lovers, friends, crushes, artists I idolized, mythological figures from artworks I loved. Each had a name, usually in the title. I thought then that I was protecting the figure from the viewer with all of these inclinations and the rules they generated. I thought I was protecting myself as well, and the subcultures with which I was involved. Perhaps I was also shielding the subjects and even the viewer from my own unconscious aggressions? The technique I developed with color pencils was ambiguous to me in this regard. Layering the colors with short, sharp strokes denoted a magnified attention and heightened sense of care that suggested, I hope, a

28


sense of devotion befitting what I believed my true subject to be: the Beloved. That attention and care, however, ran the risk of becoming excessive, connoting instead an overweening desire for mastery over the surface, the likeness it bears, and, by extension, the represented subject. Right now, I favor this ambiguity because I find it realistic— unfortunately realistic. The desire for this mastery to which I keep referring involves the borders of the self—the spatial boundary where I end and you begin and the scary gulf between that is haunted by yearned-for love and feared [isolation? Lonesomeness?]; and the temporal and more ultimate limit of death. It’s precisely at the point where we lack it most piercingly that the desire for mastery, for possession and control, runs deepest. The portrait of Mark Aguhar is ambiguous precisely because it is an artifact of devotional remembrance that belies a doomed effort to call into presence that which is irrevocably, permanently absent. The young artist, who was a close friend, took their own life in 2012. Trying to run the clock’s wheel to the left and deny death wasn’t what I’d intended with the portrait, but a realization that dawned following the drawing’s completion. We’re opaque even to ourselves sometimes.

29


PL. 1

Excremental Philosophy Illustrated, Vol. 1, 2013


PL. 2

Be like Orpheus, 2013


PL. 3

Hex Centrifuge, 2015


PL. 4

Bachelor with “demons” (Sleezy), 2015


PL. 5

Bachelor (Paul), 2015


PL. 6

Gordon, 2015


PL. 7

Chicago Fire #2, 2016


PL. 8

Eden flag with solar-anal emblems and hexes, 2017


PL. 9

Attis, 2018


P L . 10

Mark, 2017


P L . 11

Youth in a window (prism, mirror, lens), 2018


Toyin Ojih Odutola

In lieu of authoring a text for this volume, Ojih Odutola chose to provide a series of published and unpublished statements that speak to the themes addressed in For Opacity. — “Opacity is the right to not explain oneself, to not be pinned down. Not every drawing is an answer to a question. As James Baldwin wrote, ‘The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.’” —from a conversation with Claire Gilman, May 23, 2018 “Drawing for me is investigative and I’m always investigating. The real subject is the exploration of the materials and the mark-making. Yes, there’s the ‘subject’ but what I’m really asking myself is what can I do to make the eye dance? When you look at the drawing from far away you may see something mundane but when you come up close, there’s this crazy array of mark-making especially on the skin. It has a lot to do with how we see people in the world. When we see

46


someone and just let it settle, we are missing so much. If you can see the journey of the work, that’s when it’s beautiful.” —from a conversation with Claire Gilman, May 23, 2018 “Incorporating the fictive is what allowed me to expand not only the definition of blackness, but to expand what blackness can contain, what blackness can reveal, and where it can go. It’s no longer flattened nor monolithic. It’s not stuck in some loop that is only binary to whiteness. No one wants to have that cyclical conversation anymore; it limits so much of what the work can be. And if all you see of the work is that, it’s indicative of how you see the world, how you see people.” —from Payton Turner, “Toyin Ojih Odutola,” Girls at Library, February 6, 2018, https://www.girlsatlibrary.com/interviews/ toyin-ojih-odutola [Concerning To Wander Determined at the Whitney Museum of American Art] “One of the things I tried to inject into this series was constantly hearing about the mediocrity of white men, how that was no longer helping them move through the world. Because, yes, it’s a globalized, capitalistic system. You can’t just be mediocre. You can’t just fall back on your whiteness and your maleness as a thing that can get you ahead. You have to do a little more—you feel me, guys? Maybe put your tiki torches down and try something new. Because everyone here is hustling just to be seen, and all of us have to be exceptional to do so. You have been unremarkable for a very, very long time. I wanted to show an unremarkability: Yeah, I’m in the middle of a gorgeous home, with a green chair, and a see-through skirt, and a paisley tee, and I’m just living my life. There’s no other purpose besides that. And that is a luxury that’s been afforded a group of people for a very long time, until very recently. But in order for me to create that piece, I have to be extraordinary. I have to work twice as hard to make this picture look unremarkable. That was what I was pushing at, what seeped in.” —from Julia Felsenthal, “At the Whitney, a Vision of Africa— Without the Colonialist Meddling,” Vogue, October 27, 2017, https://www.vogue.com/article/toyin-ojih-odutolawhitney-museum-interview

47


“The style I employ for the skin is riddled with tensions inherent in the mark-making, and I always like to tease those tensions out slightly, playing with the planes and crevices of the skin’s form—for the skin is a bit of a puzzle I’m trying to solve. The marks aren’t placed automatically, nor repetitively; they only seem to be. When I am drawing the skin, I am mapping out a territory, which seems familiar to me but is always strange and foreign whenever I engage with it. So, I am discovering it as I am drawing out the figure. The tensions that arise and reveal themselves become so in the process of the making, and I love how every skin layer is different from character to character—even if I’m the only one who can see this.” —from Kristin Farr, “Toyin Ojih Odutola: Infinite Possibility,” Juxtapoz, September 29, 2017, https://www.juxtapoz.com/news/ magazine/features/behind-the-cover-toyin-ojih-odutola/ “I am always looking for a way to explore the ‘representational’ image in a way that I have never seen before . . . The monochrome as a theme helped me formulate this idea of the shifting perceptions that we seemingly, automatically utilize to read an image: we constantly look for motifs, clues, and recognizable moments that we can fall back on. I wanted to see what I could do if I minimized all of that and have the outcome be just as interesting if not more interesting when the connotations associated with a broader color palette were omitted.” —from Emory Lopiccolo, “Toyin Ojih Odutola’s ‘Of Context and Without’ at Jack Shainman,” Whitewall, January 26, 2016, https://www.whitewall.art/art/ toyin-ojih-odutolas-of-context-and-without-at-jack-shainman “What I really loved is that when you use black as a demarcating tool and replace it with white it suddenly makes things really, really slippery and people get uncomfortable because they can’t delineate anything . . . All of a sudden this idea of context is very suspect and the content becomes unreliable.” —from Michael Slenske, “Toyin Ojih Odutola Explores Race and Identity in Black and White,” Wallpaper, December 8, 2015, https://www.wallpaper.com/art/nigerian-born-artist-toyin-ojihodutola-explores-race-and-identity-in-black-and-white

48


“‘I am not this narrative that has been written about me, flattened and archetypal; I am my own person, a land that I now wish to take back. Here, I will show you. Do not omit me or render me invisible . . . I am here, I will not be erased or smudged out. I am as vast and wondrous as the night sky.’ That sort of thing. And that is very political. To demand a presence, to demand a voice, a visibility and rights to a new sort of dialogue, is something that has always been there, it just took me awhile to see it for myself.” —from Natascha Chtena, “Interview with Artist Toyin Odutola,” Think Africa Press, May 30, 2011, http://www.jackshainman.com/ files/1515/3124/3587/Odutola_Press_Kit_small.pdf

49


P L . 12

The Guilt of Looking, 2014


P L . 13

M6, 2015


P L . 14

Somebody’s Heroine, 2015


P L . 15

The Treatment 30, 2016


P L . 16

The Treatment 3, 2015


P L . 17

The Treatment 6, 2015


P L . 18

The Treatment 7, 2015


P L . 19

The Treatment 12, 2015


PL. 20

The Treatment 8A, 2015


P L . 21

The Bride, 2016


PL. 22

Paris Apartment, 2016–17


PL. 23

Compound Leaf, 2017


P L . 24

The Many Ways To Work It Out, 2017


PL . 25

Taking Chances, 2017


PL. 26

A Necessity, 2017


PL. 27

A Guarded Intimacy, 2016–17


Preciate It, Unk and Opacity

Nathaniel Mary Quinn

“But difference itself can still contrive to reduce things to the Transparent.” 1 —édouard glissant According to Édouard Glissant’s eloquent and ethical stance against postcolonial conditions, investigating the process of “understanding” people and ideas makes transparency inevitable. While difference does, indeed, disturb the hierarchy of the ideal scale inherent in Western ideology, the very notion of a scale and the need for reduction should, resolutely, be eradicated in order to establish Relation. The acceptance of difference is vastly important; indeed, our campaign should be unfailingly ignited by a transformative revolution for the right—our right—to opacity: “Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics. To understand these truly one must focus on the texture of the weave and not on the nature of its components.”2 Upon this blossoming soil exists no demarcation between notions of self and other; glory and liberation construct the foundation upon which the divergence of humanities thrives. The weave possesses no boundaries,

1

2

72

Édouard Glissant, “For Opacity,” in Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 189. Originally published as Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990). Ibid., 190.


yet it can be the agent for the concretization of genuine relationships and communication between people. At last, opacity would create grounds for Relation, a most radical democracy where diversity exhausts categories of identifiable difference, a “weaving” of peoples, cultures, and thought, where limitations inherent within structures of visibility, representation, and identity become obsolete. As Glissant fervently states in his argument for opacity: “In Relation the whole is not the finality of its parts: for multiplicity in totality is totally diversity.”3 Opacity as a means of addressing diversity permeates the ethereal atmosphere of my studio practice, the sustained exploration of the human spectrum, the removal of self-interpretation, and the rise of empathetic charges for enacting Relation, especially in the face of obscurity. Human behavior, quite naturally, is fractal; it is far more liberating to relinquish one’s pursuit of reducing behavior to the “obviousness of a transparency.”4 While my labor of love, discipline, and talent is interwoven within the texture of opacity, perhaps, for example, opacity is illuminated with a recent work, exhibited via Salon 94 Gallery, in 2018 for Frieze New York, entitled Preciate It, Unk! My work, wholly, is defined by multiplicity, the interweaving of parts, and the absence of hierarchy. The work’s aesthetic therefore is as opaque as the journey that gave rise to the work’s existence. Solidarity of Relation, between two young men and me, was beautifully shared; opacity was firmly embraced and accepted. Maybe some known or unknown entity inspired—perhaps against my will, or in step with some incessant need—a painting that reflects not the societal category of damnation by which my subjects have been conventionally (historically?) defined but rather the obscurity and unknowability of their humanity. Having a “grasp” of one another was not necessary for the establishment of Relation: opacity, in this case, allowed for the birth of somehow knowing that the moral barriers that one supposes to exist between oneself and the dangers outside are so tenuous as to be nearly nonexistent. They hugged me and asked if they could call me “Unk”—a term of endearment. The right to opacity was achieved. 3 4

73

Ibid., 192. Ibid., 193.


PL. 28

Irene, 2013


PL. 29

King Kong Ain’t Got Nothing on Me, 2013


PL. 30

Pilcher, 2015


P L . 31

Erica with the Pearl Earring, 2015


PL. 32

Class of 92, 2015


PL. 33

Elephant Feet, 2016


PL. 34

Mama in Summer, 2017


PL. 35

The Comedian, 2017


PL. 36

Golf Mound, 2017


PL. 37

Fixin to Eat, 2017


PL. 38

JB and Bobby, 2018


PL. 39

BAM, 2018


LIST OF WORKS

PL . 6

Gordon, 2015 E li j ah B u rgher

Color pencil on paper 24 x 19 inches

PL . 1

Collection of Thomas Lavin

Excremental Philosophy Illustrated, Vol. 1, 2013 Color pencil on paper

PL . 7

19 x 24 inches

Chicago Fire #2, 2016

Collection of Susan A. Gescheidle

Color pencil, ink, and gouache on paper 24 x 19 inches

PL . 2

Courtesy of Sean Horton, New York and Dallas

Be like Orpheus, 2013

Collection of Lisa Rotmil and Alex Schmelzer,

Color pencil on paper

New York

18 x 24 inches Collection of Joshua Rogers and

PL . 8

Lesley Weisenbacher

Eden flag with solar-anal emblems and hexes, 2017 Color pencil on paper

PL . 3

33 1/8 x 23 3/8 inches

Hex Centrifuge, 2015

Courtesy of the artist and

Color pencil on paper

Western Exhibitions, Chicago

24 x 19 inches Courtesy of the artist and

PL . 9

Western Exhibtions, Chicago

Attis, 2018 Acrylic and color pencil on canvas

PL. 4

108 x 72 inches

Bachelor with “demons� (Sleezy), 2015

Courtesy of the artist and Horton Gallery,

Color pencil on paper

New York / Western Exhibitions, Chicago

24 x 19 inches

Photograph by Uwe Walter

Collection of Noel E.D. Kirnon PL . 10 PL. 5

Mark, 2017

Bachelor (Paul), 2015

Color pencil on paper

Color pencil on paper

33 1/8 x 23 1/2 inches

24 x 19 inches

Collection Museum of Contemporary Art,

Collection of Eric Ceputis and

Chicago, Restricted gift of

David W. Williams

Dr. Daniel S. Berger and Scott Wenthe, 2017.19

90


PL . 11

PL . 16

Youth in a window (prism, mirror, lens), 2018

The Treatment 3, 2015

Color pencil on paper

Pen ink and pencil on paper

27 1/8 x 22 5/8 inches

12 x 9 inches

Courtesy of the artist and Horton Gallery,

Courtesy of the artist and

New York / Western Exhibitions, Chicago

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Collection of Dr. Daniel S. Berger PL . 17 T o y in O j ih O d u tola

The Treatment 6, 2015 Pen ink and pencil on paper

PL . 12

12 x 9 inches

The Guilt of Looking, 2014

Courtesy of the artist and

Graphite pencil on black board

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

20 x 30 inches Collection of Nancy Delman Portnoy

PL . 18

The Treatment 7, 2015 PL . 13

Pen ink and pencil on paper

M6, 2015

12 x 9 inches

Graphite on board

Courtesy of the artist and

15 x 10 inches

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Collection of Lloyd Bean and Ursula Burns PL . 19 PL . 14

The Treatment 12, 2015

Somebody’s Heroine, 2015

Pen ink and pencil on paper

Charcoal on board

12 x 9 inches

32 x 40 inches

Courtesy of the artist and

Collection of Marsha E. Simms

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

PL . 15

PL . 20

The Treatment 30, 2016

The Treatment 8A, 2015

Pen ink and pencil on paper

Pen ink and pencil on paper

13 x 9 inches

12 x 9 inches

Courtesy of the artist and

Courtesy of the artist and

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

91


PL . 21

PL . 27

The Bride, 2016

A Guarded Intimacy, 2016–17

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

24 x 19 inches

66 1/2 x 42 inches

Courtesy of the artist and

Kravis Collection

Jack Shainman Gallery, New York N athaniel M ar y Q u inn PL . 22

Paris Apartment, 2016–17

PL . 28

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

Irene, 2013

59 3/8 x 42 inches

Black charcoal and gouache on Lenox paper

Dean Collection

51 x 38 inches Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody

PL . 23

Compound Leaf, 2017

PL . 29

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

King Kong Ain’t Got Nothing on Me, 2013

50 x 75 inches

Black charcoal, gouache, and oil pastel on

Private collection

Coventry vellum paper 86 1/2 x 61 1/2 inches

PL . 24

Collection of Fairfax Dorn and Marc Glimcher

The Many Ways To Work It Out, 2017 Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

PL . 30

40 x 30 inches

Pilcher, 2015

Collection of Drs. Carlos Garcia-Velez and

Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel,

W. Kent Davis, Chapel Hill, NC

oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, and acrylic gold leaf on Coventry vellum paper

PL . 25

25 1/2 × 25 1/2 inches

Taking Chances, 2017

Collection of Kelly and Adam Leight

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper 24 x 19 inches

PL . 31

Private collection

Erica with the Pearl Earring, 2015 Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel,

PL . 26

oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick, and silver

A Necessity, 2017

oil pastel on Coventry vellum paper

Charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper

25 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches

24 x 19 inches

Collection of Rhona Hoffman

Private collection

92


PL . 32

PL . 37

Class of 92, 2015

Fixin to Eat, 2017

Black charcoal, soft pastel, oil pastel, paint

Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel,

stick, and gouache on Coventry vellum paper

oil pastel, and acrylic gold leaf on

34 x 38 inches

Coventry vellum paper

Collection of the Whitney Museum of

12 x 16 inches

American Art, New York; Purchase, with

Collection of Barbara Ruben

funds from Beth Rudin DeWoody and Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, 2016.41

PL . 38

JB and Bobby, 2018 PL . 33

Black charcoal, gouache, and soft pastel

Elephant Feet, 2016

on Coventry vellum paper

Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel,

60 x 44 inches

and oil pastel on Coventry vellum paper

Courtesy of the artist and

44 5/8 x 44 inches

Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody

Photograph by Martin Parsekian

PL . 34

PL . 39

Mama in Summer, 2017

BAM, 2018

Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel,

Black charcoal, gouache, and soft pastel

and oil pastel on Coventry vellum paper

on Coventry vellum paper

20 x 20 inches

16 x 13 inches

Courtesy of Salon 94

Courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery

PL . 35

The Comedian, 2017 Black charcoal, gouache, oil pastel, soft pastel, and acrylic gold leaf on Coventry vellum paper. 12 x 16 inches Collection of Mrs. Donna Augustin-Quinn PL . 36

Golf Mound, 2017 Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, and acrylic gold powder on Coventry vellum paper 14 x 11 inches Collection of Brady and Dan Doty

93

Photograph by Martin Parsekian


CONTRIBUTORS

Elijah Burgher (b. 1978, Kingston, NY) has had solo exhibitions mounted by Western Exhibitions, Chicago, and Zieher Smith + Horton, New York. He has also been included in group exhibitions at Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. Burgher lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Claire Gilman is Chief Curator at The Drawing Center. Édouard Glissant (1928–2011) was a postcolonial philosopher, poet, and writer perhaps best known for Poétique de la Relation (Poetics of Relation, 1990). During his lifetime, Glissant was a central figure in French Caribbean literature, authoring eight novels and countless essays, many of which expound upon the relational nature of identity, particularly as it pertains to Caribbean culture and personhood. In recent years, solo exhibitions of Toyin Ojih Odutola’s (b. 1985, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) work have been mounted by the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, GA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. Ojih Odutola lives and works in New York. Nathaniel Mary Quinn (b. 1977, Chicago, IL) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at M+B, Los Angeles; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Luce Gallery, Torino, Italy; Pace London; and Salon 94, New York. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Taubman Museum of Art, Virginia; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Hall Art Foundation, New York; and the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL, among others. Quinn lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn is made possible by Almine Rech Gallery; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Anderson Cooper; Fairfax Dorn and Marc Glimcher; Stephanie and Timothy Ingrassia; Jack Shainman Gallery; Kathleen Madden and Paul Frantz; Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson; Noel E. D. Kirnon; Thomas Lavin; Fiona and Eric Rudin; Beth Rudin DeWoody and Firooz Zahedi; Salon 94; Neil Tennant; Dr. Daniel S. Berger and Scott Wenthe; Rashid Johnson; M+B; P•P•O•W; Rhona Hoffman Gallery; Half Gallery; and Western Exhibitions.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

S TA F F

Co-Chairs

Laura Hoptman Executive Director

Andrea Crane

Olga Tetkowski Deputy Director

Amy Gold Joanna Berman Ahlberg Managing Editor Frances Beatty Adler

Noah Chasin Executive Editor

Dita Amory

Dan Gillespie Operations Manager

Brad Cloepfil

Claire Gilman Chief Curator

Stacey Goergen

Aimee Good Director of Education &

Steven Holl

Community Programs

Rhiannon Kubicka

Molly Gross Communications Director

Nancy Poses

Rosario GĂźiraldes Assistant Curator &

Eric Rudin

Open Sessions Curator

Jane Dresner Sadaka

Alison Hyland Assistant Development Director

David Salle

Isabella Kapur Curatorial Assistant

Joyce Siegel

Kara Nandin Bookstore Manager

Galia Meiri Stawski

Bruno Nouril Development Director

Barbara Toll

Nadia Parfait Visitor Services Associate

Waqas Wajahat

Kate Robinson Registrar

Isabel Stainow Wilcox

Tiffany Shi Visitor Services Associate Lisa Sigal Open Sessions Curator

Emeritus Michael Lynne George Negroponte Jeanne C. Thayer


E D WA R D H A L L A M T U C K P U B L I C AT I O N P R O G R A M

This is number 138 of the Drawing Papers, a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. Noah Chasin Executive Editor Joanna Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by AHL&CO / Peter J. Ahlberg This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by Puritan Capital in Hollis, New Hampshire.

The first printing of For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn has been produced with three different covers, each in an edition of 200: Elijah Burgher, Bachelor with “demons” (Sleezy) (detail), 2015 Toyin Ojih Odutola, Compound Leaf (detail), 2017. Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Irene (detail), 2013

I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 5 5 - 6 © 2 018 T he D rawing C enter


THE D R AWI N G CENTER

3 5 W O O S T E R S T R E E T | N E W YO R K , N Y 10 013 T 212 219 216 6 | F 8 8 8 . 3 8 0 . 3 3 6 2 | D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G


Essays by Claire Gilman and Édouard Glissant

D R AW I N G PA P E R S 1 3 8

$20.00 US

ISBN 9 78 0 9 42 324 5 5 6 52000

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Profile for The Drawing Center

For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers, Volume 138, features contributions by Elijah Burgher, Claire Gilman, Édouard Glissant, Toyin Ojih Oduto...

For Opacity: Elijah Burgher, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Nathaniel Mary Quinn  

The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers, Volume 138, features contributions by Elijah Burgher, Claire Gilman, Édouard Glissant, Toyin Ojih Oduto...

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