Los AngelesOtis Kwame Kye Quaicoe: Black Like Me
Roberts Projects presents the exhibition of Ghanian artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe. This presentation brings together new portraits and is the artist’s first showing of work in the United States.
Quaicoe’s lush and luminous oil paintings of black men and women, some strangers he streetcasts or encounters on social media, many others who are friends and colleagues, stand as visual testaments to the resilience, power and strength inherent in African culture, as articulated by the artist. His portraits reveal the complexities of human experience with both a boldness of line and a depth of color, allowing the viewer to experience their uniqueness and vitality simultaneously.
Quaicoe’s figuration is built upon a color palette where color becomes its own language of transformation, be it social, political or personal. These are images of empowerment and redemption, sophistication and humility, curiosity and quietude. Each figure becomes a symbol of the reclamation of cultural dignity, embracing the idea of origin and personal narrative as it relates to gender and race dynamics. That they are posed in classically derived poses only serves to reinforce the artist constructed narrative.
As Quaicoe explains, “color means a great deal where I come from. It’s a distinguishing quality – the very means of self-expression.” Certainly, the colors reflect the subject’s state of mind and suggest a more complicated and celebrated relationship to the world around them. The specificity of the palette used – bright oranges, Yves Klein blues, lurid yellows and cherry reds – suggest a fearlessness of intention as well as creating an electrified emotional space where the artist endeavors to capture the essence of each of his subject, including their own personal sense of style and fashion.
Fundamentally, Quaicoe is building a bonding relationship with each figure wherein his own sense of struggle and humanity are amplified in the form of another. That tension creates work that exists somewhere between artefact and the visual act of resistance, forming bridges between the struggles and humanity of his own personal, familial and cultural histories.
Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe was born in Greater Accra Region, Ghana. He attended the Ghanatta College of Art and Design for Fine Art, with a focus on painting. He currently resides in Gresham, Oregon.
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California