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Outrageous Supercharge Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana

  • Archive, Archive Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • June 2003 - December 2003
  • Galleries

Outrageous Supercharge, an exhibition of 19 hand-painted Ghanaian movie posters, opened at MASS MoCA on June 14, 2003. The colorful posters, painted on large canvas flour sacks, were created between the mid-’80s and ’90s in the West African nation of Ghana. The posters were made in response to a nascent form of mobile cinema—entrepreneurs brought the latest videos (along with gas-powered generators, VCRs, TV monitors or projectors, and speakers) to Ghana’s rural hinterlands where they set up makeshift movie houses. They hired Ghanaian professionals such as D.A. Jasper, Leonardo, and Death is Wonder to promote the films of Hollywood, Bollywood, and Hong Kong with outrageously supercharged paintings.

These wildly imaginative images were the first paintings on canvas in Africa and were created to withstand the wear and tear of traveling much better than commercially produced paper posters could. The increasing availability of VCRs and videocassettes brought on the decline of this vibrant trend—documented in this gallery with works made before 1996 —almost as soon as it appeared.

Outrageous Supercharge included promotional posters for films such as Barb Wire, Terminator, Freejack, Leprechaun 2, and Never Too Young To Die, among others. Other artists represented in the exhibition are Dan Nyenkumah, Leonardo (Edward Lampley), Joe Mensah, and Stoger.

Many of the posters were from the collection of African art scholar Ernie Wolfe III, who owns Ernie Wolfe Gallery in West Los Angeles. He has spent the last 28 years immersed in African art and culture, and has written two books on African art. He founded the gallery in 1981 and lives with his wife and two sons above the gallery. More of Wolfe’s collection can be seen in the book Extreme Canvas: Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana (Dilettante Press, 2000), which includes essays by Clive Barker, Walter Hill, Gus Van Sant, and Angelica Huston.