Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

Born in Accra, Ghana in 1988, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe now works and resides in Portland, Oregon. The artist who has received such honors as a full residency at the Rubell Museum, has become known for infusing pop culture and consumerism- such as designer clothing and sport jerseys into his portraiture. However, he is not only fiercely contemporary when depicting black subjects but also enjoys depicting long forgotten or overlooked paradigms in art and to some extent, American history. One of these such nostalgic motifs that has landed that artist worldwide acclaim has been his depictions of black cowboys. When describing his approach to this subject Quaicoe states "When the pandemic hit, then following the murder of George Floyd, I was going to many Black Lives Matter protests when I saw the Compton Cowboys. This is a group of Black cowboys and girls that ride together today. It hit me, like wow, there are people who look like me who are cowboys. Growing up as a child, cowboys were a fictional thing for me- like a superhero- and it really changed the way I thought about it. That was actually my first encounter with African-American cowboys and it changed something that had been but a fantasy into a new reality for me." Quaicoe remains close to other West-African and Ghanian artists, such as Amoako Boafo, who acts as both peer and mentor to the young artist. Quaicoe and Boafo would have long discussions about Picasso's evolution from figuration to abstraction, Van Gogh's use of color, and how Rembrandt was able to create a gaze. Quiacoe states "We'd talk about the way he plays with the eyes. The soul in the eyes. The lighting, the shadow, the tones… I can stare at Rembrandt's paintings for a long time." Surely, as Quiacoe can get lost in a Rembrandt, it is easy for one to get lost in the gaze of one of Quaicoe's subjects. Perhaps the most enthralling/captivating aspect of the young artist's works- and subsequently what sets him apart from the field is the unadulterated vividness in which his subjects gaze affixes upon the viewer. On a theoretical exhibition room floor featuring the loudest works from some of the most pronounced emerging artists of our time, Quicoe's portraits seem to monopolize attention with their sheer, striking and untethered gaze.