Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe: ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii) @ Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
"The main story from the outside is capturing the emotions and the person's spirit," Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe told us in our Winter 2021 Quarterly. "Who the person is. And then I add the dressing. You know how we Black people dress! You know how we want to stand out as people. We dress in a statement way. We want to look so powerful! So I add all those kinds of things. Things you see when you walk into a Black neighborhood. Things that make us unique."
This is a good place when starting to look at Quaicoe's newest solo show, ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii), on view at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles starting on June 5, 2021. In each of his portraits, there is a reverence, a care, but just as much about the subject and their shared experience. "Haadzii," the Ga[i] word interpreted to be "twin-born," is both a comment on Quaicoe himself being a twin as well as his ability to look at those dualities in portrait making. Subject and author experience, side-by-side, as well as the what a subject wears and presents themselves as and the artist's interpretation of it.
The gallery notes, "Twinned and inseparable, twins are the existential instantiation of spirit, which explains the expansive, joyful rituals surrounding their births in Ga culture. Quaicoe's new paintings engage with these complex dynamics while approaching considerations of color, line, and shape through the structures of historic portraiture. That said, these portraits, as most of Quaicoe's figurative work, can be read as direct confrontations to the institutional portrayal of Black individuals."
It's an interesting way of looking at art; the twin working on the concepts of being a twin and the natural dichotomies that exist between a portrait painter and their subjects, and the dichotomies that the subjects hold themselves. But Quaicoe's work is always about that idea of reverence that we bring up once again, and at his most poignant, he teaches us to look closer at the world and an individual and reimagine the past, present and future. —Evan Pricco