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Collaboration between Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Aboudia is inaugural exhibition at Cécile Fakhoury Gallery
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Aboudia, Lago Tapê Gégha Zrapê. © Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Aboudia, / Stefen Meisel. Courtesy Galerie Cécile Fakhoury.

ABIDJAN.- For its inaugural exhibition, the Cécile Fakhoury Gallery is overjoyed to present the fruits of a collaboration between Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Aboudia. Their work together has resulted in a series of 12 canvasses, on which each one of the artists, in a synergy born from their exchanges and mutual inspiration, has made a contribution. Transcending the generational divide and setting aside the six decades which separate the ‘old man’ and the ‘youth’, Bouabré and Aboudia have together produced a unique piece of work that sees an interchange between their provocative styles in an ostinato pattern.

In these works acrylic, wood glue, pencil and pastels collide in a joyful chaos bringing harmonies in the complementarities of colours and materials. We also discover Bouabré’s favourite themes, including the birth of humanity (La venue au monde), the human vision of the world (Guiéguiéguié!), the artist’s mother (Tagro Dréhounou – la mère de Bouabré), or again, fatherly love (La Guerre n’est pas bonne, L’embrassade). In these same works, Aboudia contributes a more urban theme, inspired by his childhood and the little nothings that constitute happy and disorderly life in the lower-class urban sprawl. Alongside the stroke of the brush or the line of the pencil, is writing – a key aspect of both artists’ work. The combination of their two texts provides a message, sparkling with vitality, like the colourful suns that first appeared to Bouabré in a vision over sixty years ago.

A prolific and multifaceted creator born in 1923 in the small town of Zéprégué, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré showed from a young age a burning curiosity for the world around him and a strong desire for knowledge. In 1948, he had a vision in a dream which implanted a desire to be an artist-creator – something that has never left him. Poet and painter, he invented an alphabet of 448 monosyllabic pictograms, inspired by the sacred stones of Bécloi in western Cote d’Ivoire. Using this writing, Bouabre, and others, recorded poems, stories and legends drawn from the Bété culture, his ethnic group. His research was published by the naturalist Theodore Monod and earned him a reputation as “a new Champollion”. These famous symbols can be found in the work ‘Civilise toi homme! Entendu!’. From the 1950s, when he was still a colonial administrative official, Bouabré developed another part of his inexhaustible talent in creating a sort of world encyclopaedia, drawn in coloured pencil and ballpoint pen on small cards lined by hand-drawn illustrations. The work was exhibited worldwide including at the Tate, the Centre Pompidou, the Dia Center for the Arts, the Saatchi Gallery, the Guggenheim museum and the Mori Art Museum, to cite just a few names. A scribe of modern times, a complete artist and a universalist, Bouabré is rightly seen as a living piece of cultural heritage.

As for Aboudia, his stylistic identity comes from the street. Born in 1983, he graduated from the CTAA (Technical Centre of Applied Arts) in Bingerville. Against the advice of his parents and his teachers who thought he’d become a street artist, he chose the career of painter. With his wall frescos, Aboudia’s work is notably different from that of his older collaborator by the sheer scale of his monumental works. But there remains a common thread in the importance of words in the paintings, in Aboudia’s case, something that pays homage to street graffiti, the signified highlighting and amplifying the scope of the signifier.

Revealed to the international community of art critics and journalists by his work on the battle for Abidjan, Aboudia refuses to be categorised as a ‘war painter’. His paintings, that he calls ‘nouchi’, pay homage to the essence of dreams and language. They use, like those of Bouabré, whatever is at hand, with the aim of giving maximum expression with the minimum of resources.

Situated in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, the Cécile Fakhoury gallery has as its mission to promote contemporary art on the African continent by developing a dynamic locally-based structure. Its space of 600m2, entirely dedicated to contemporary works, is a place of discoveries, exchanges and encounters. The gallery will showcase individual and collective exhibitions, some of which will be itinerant to help connect the continent to the rest of the world and reach a worldwide audience.

At the heart of this approach is a desire to share universals. Strongly rooted in their respective identities and stories, the gallery’s artists distinguish themselves through the use of a language that abolishes barriers and rejects geographical stigmatization.

The dialogue created by the artists of the gallery aims to be firmly contemporary, strong, passionate, sometimes engaged. Observers of the world they live in, these men and women give a lucid and sharp look on our society of which they record the history and participate to the living memory of their country defined by their link to the world.

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