Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré‘s work had one purpose: to record and communicate data about the known universe. Dedicating his life to the quest for knowledge, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré has captured and arranged subjects from an assortment of sources, including cultural practices, legends, strict and deep frames of belief, theory and mainstream culture.
« World Unbound », on view through August 13, is the first exhibition at MoMA given to an Ivorian artist. The exhibition covers the artist’s formidable output from the 1970s to his death in 2014.
One of the features of the exhibition is the Bété-Bouabré Alphabet, which he concocted for his people, an ethnic group in what is now Côte d’Ivoire, where he was from.
The « World Unbound » exhibition also includes numerous postcard-sized illustrations he drew on cardboard bundles of hair objects he collected in his neighborhood of Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. « World Unbound » follows the segment of his imagination, from the creation of his first compositions and drawings focused on his lifestyle, to scenes of everyday life, to broader topics such as the system of democracy, women’s freedoms and current events.
The « World Unbound » exhibition honors his commitment to collecting, protecting and sharing information to improve our global environment.
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré
For Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, the representation of his general environment is essential. During his long vocation, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré has tackled many subjects, investigating and archiving different information frameworks.
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré‘s obligation to examine and celebrate his community began with the transcription of his oral Bété language in a newspaper dated 1957.
Born in Zéprégühé, in western Côte d’Ivoire, he served in the French West African Navy and began his vocation as an assistant in the pioneering French West Africa organization in Senegal. After returning to Abidjan, he served as a source and scientist for French ethnographers and anthropologists, collecting and documenting data on individuals from his region and other West African peoples. In 1948, he had a prophetic revelation that prompted him to bring back a wide range of themes, which he recorded first on paper and then in his art. In this way, not knowing how to sing, not knowing how to dance, he preferred to make many drawings.
In the late 1970s, after many decades of making original copies, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré began to draw on traced cardboard, consolidating image and text. Beginning in the 1980s, as the breadth of his proclivities grew, he embarked on a global adventure, drawing virtually day by day from perceptions. He named this open-ended, unfinished series of drawings « Knowledge of the World » and continued it until his death in 2014, effectively assembling and arranging structures, thoughts, and a wide range of particularities, including domestic items, cloud formations, and ancestral scarification, as well as the political environment and world events. Blending West African practices with his global quest for knowledge, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré imagined his work as an imperative type of instructive ideas reflecting individual and universal encounters.