Burning in Water - New York presented a two-artist installation of works by the late Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and the late Italian artist Alighiero Boetti at the 2018 edition of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York.
When he passed in 2014 at the age of 91, the Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré left behind an utterly unique artistic legacy. Bouabré led a remarkable life spanning the pre-colonial to post-colonial epochs in West Africa - a journey reflected in the drawings that he produced over five decades. Critics have recognized Bouabré as "the most singular figure in the history of contemporary African art" and "perhaps the most important African artist of the 20th century."
Bouabré's stated goals were to "search for the dream at the heart of philosophy" and promote "the eternal happiness of humanity." His drawings included series on a diverse range of subjects, including language, politics, race relations and cultural history. In series such as Musee du Visage Africain, Bouabré elaborated intricate taxonomies of his subjects that supported complex systems of meaning. Writers have struggled to characterize Bouabré's approach to drawing, which defies conventional categorization, describing the artist variously as a "scholar," "anthropologist," "encyclopedist" and "philosopher."
The Italian Arte Povera artist Alighiero Boetti was an early and avid admirer of Bouabré. The two artists initially became correspondents and later friends and collaborators. Boetti described Bouabré’s drawings as a set of "cards" and wrote the following regarding Bouabré's art:
An essential language is spoken there and it speaks of everything...a deck of cards for describing the world and for communicating with it.
In 1995, Dia:Chelsea in New York hosted a landmark exhibition of works by Bouabre and Boetti, Worlds Envisioned, that was organized jointly by the two artists. Worlds Envisioned was the sole exhibition of Bouabré’s work mounted in the US during his lifetime. Worlds Envisioned aptly portrayed the remarkable affinities between the artists’ shared interest in linguistic systems, taxonomies of knowledge and logical intricacies. Our presentation pays homage to the historic dialogue between Bouabré and Boetti.