From April 10th to June 27th, 2015, Galerie Boulakia presented an exhibition of works by the African artist Ouattara Watts. Fifteen years after his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Boulakia, this artist from the Ivory Coast will once again return to the Paris spotlight.
Born in 1957 in Abidjan, Ouattara was raised and educated in a way that is reflected in the imagery of his art that lies somewhere between tradition and modernity.
At the end of the 1970s, Ouattara moved to Paris to attend the Écôle des Beaux Arts. January 1988, he is discovered by Jean Michel Basquiat. Basquiat was so impressed by Ouattara's work that he invited him to come back to New York with him. Ouattara accepted. Propelled by a common interest for African culture, philosophy and spirituality, the two travelled and worked together up until the premature death of Basquiat in August of 1988.
That event brought a new direction to Ouattara's work. The artist abandoned his earlier exploration in favour of developing a body of work. The canvases, ever increasing in size, became covered in cryptic ideograms, symbols of a lost religion and complex equations. So many signs that only he, the artist can decipher, like a homage to the one he considered to be a kindred spirit.
On the canvas Ouattara places thick paint that evokes the ancestral earth of Africa, mixing it with objects recovered in the course of his different travels. Even though the critics of the time attempted to include him in the neo expressionist group, the work of Ouattara escapes all comparison.
Just as a jazzman, Ouattara is a master of improvisation. He begins at the middle of the canvas, allowing his brush to be guided from East to West, from North to South, by his multitude of influences. He says that he is most touched by artists who, in their style of painting, are able to open new windows on the world like Picasso or Cy Twombly. Just like them, Ouattara is an intercessor, standing between two worlds that he has invited to live together on his canvas.