ONE BUT TWO HAADZII OTIS KWAME KYE QUAICOE AT ROBERTS PROJECTS LA

Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, born and raised in Greater Accra Region, specializes in investing his own essence into his work. As the son of a twin, and deeply immersed in the Ga’ religion of spirits, energies, and the weight of the soul, Quaicoe produces portraits in pairs. Either through massive compositions of a pair posing for the viewer, or a series of diptychs of nearly identical but not the same individuals. Through his work, he studies the existence of twins, people whose souls are shared from birth, through a unique approach to the canvas. On view for the second time at Roberts Projects, through July 2, ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii) delves in depth across scores of concepts that align on the canvas.

Installation View, ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii), 2021, Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Unlike the previous body of work we’ve come to know and love from his previous exhibition at Roberts Projects in 2020, Quaicoe’s latest portraits contain a more realistic approach. The glance has a captivating power in each and every subject in these paintings. The pairs exist in unison and talk to the viewer about their similarities, as well as their differences. It doesn’t take a long while for one to notice elements in personality between the Beret Boys (below) for example. The feeling one gets as the viewer by looking at these brothers in the eye is confidently true to life. 

Beret Boys, 2021, Oil on canvas, 108 x 84 in (213.4 x 137.2 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

This newfound approach to the subject doesn’t take away from the fact that this new body of work is a confident implementation of Quaicoe’s style. The dynamic backgrounds in their bright colors reflect in his previous work, and claim a staple characteristic of this artist’s developing oeuvre. The subjects, portrayed in domestic settings, sit or stand against boldly colorful walls. Their comfort and likeness expand across the gallery space, to the point where the viewer feels enveloped in an aura of familiarity. Miriam & Mabel (below), recurring subjects throughout the exhibition, face each other as they smile at the viewer. Both wearing jeans and the same t-shirt, this pair is a wonderful display of Quaicoe’s ability to generate sameness and dissimilarities in the face of each individual.

Miriam & Mabel, 2021, Oil and fabric applied on canvas 108 x 84 in (274.3 x 213.4 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

"Haadzii," the Gai word interpreted loosely as "twin-born," emphasizes the harmonization of humanity, specifically the innate link between the corporeal and the spiritual, that resides within one body. This duality of self-experienced in the Ga religion is outlined by Marion Kilson in her research into the phenomenon of twin births, where she states that the "soul (susuma) inhabits the body (gbọmọ tśo) except during sleep, when it leaves the body and travels about without being limited by time or space."

Akwele & Akuoko, 2021, Oil and fabric applied on canvas, Two panels, each: 24 x 18 in (61 x 45.7 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

From the gallery’s press release, the excerpt above is the ideal compilation of Quaicoe’s background and the expression of it through his paintings. Twin births are interpreted as promising phenomenons that are as rare as they are valuable. To be born as a pair means that one’s soul will forever be shared with another’s. This is represented stylistically, in the physical attributes of each subject. Quaicoe’s stroke is interrupted and complemented simultaneously, by a combination of textured excess of paint, and carvings made by the artist to generate both density and depth.

Akwele & Akuoko, 2021, Oil and fabric applied on canvas, Two panels, each: 24 x 18 in (61 x 45.7 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Before the exhibition close, be sure to make your way to Roberts Projects and experience the extent of Quaicoe’s stylistic and conceptual reach. Scroll below to see more images of the exhibition space, and the spectacular works of art hanging throughout its walls. 

Installation View, ONE BUT TWO (Haadzii), 2021, Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Oko & Akwete, 2021, Oil on canvas, Two canvases, each: 24 x 18 in (61 x 45.7 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Symmetry, 2021, Oil and fabric appliqués on canvas 60 x 40 in (152.4 x 101.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Raiyasha & Rainyanni, 2021, Oil and fabric appliqués on canvas 84 x 54 in (213.4 x 137.2 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Point of View, 2021, Oil on canvas, 84 x 54 in (213.4 x 137.2 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Oneness, 2021, Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 in (152.4 x 101.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Oneness, 2021, Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 in (152.4 x 101.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles, California; Photo Mario Gallucci

Leave a Comment