#Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe’s Intimately Textured Portraits Challenge the Weight of Performance

March 22, 2024

Grace Ebert

“in Readiness.” All photos by Paul Salveson, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, shared with permission

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Bukom neighborhood of Accra, Ghana’s capital, produced several champion boxers—including Roy Ankrah, Azumah Nelson, and Ike Quartey—and their records drew international fame, money, and prestige that helped to secure the area as a hub for the sport.

As scholar Emmanuel Akyeampong details in an insightful essay, boxing rose to popularity in the mid-20th century as tensions between Ghanaians and English colonizers intensified. Lower classes had previously taken up asafo atwele, organized group tournaments that prized “winning in style,” but after the British banned the activity around 1935, many fighters transitioned to state-sanctioned Western boxing. Because the latter sport pits single opponents against one another, it’s come to symbolize the possibility that individual self-determination and strength can lead to a life of glory and wealth.


“Victory Pose”

In a new body of work debuting at Roberts Projects, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe delves into this history. Titled Hall of Fame, the paintings reflect the figures and feelings of the artist’s native Ghana.

Quaicoe begins each work with a photo of his subject and renders their eyes first, immediately grounding their presence in oil paint. As with earlier series, the artist’s distinctive use of patterned texture is prominent in these new portraits, which seem to push the dimension of the medium further. He lays thick, three-dimensional swirls for hair, and sweeping brushstrokes characterize his flat, monochrome backdrops. Their skin remains in his signature grayscale.

Hall of Fame focuses largely on men, and although boxing can breed machismo, Quaicoe uses the sport to question masculinity and anti-Blackness. Focusing on the individual, their power, and potential, he asks what it means to perform an identity and perform in the ring, prompting viewers to look more closely at the people behind both acts.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you can see Hall of Fame from March 23 to April 27. Otherwise, find more from the artist on Instagram.



Left: “David Tagoe.” Right: “Champ”

“Untitled II”

“The Ali Effect”

“Up For It”


#Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe


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