An exhibition of contemporary African art by Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Aboudia, curated by Ethan Cohen, opens at the Jamestown Arts Center May 8 through June 26, 2021. African Avant-Garde: Aboudia and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré is a juxtaposition of two African artists from the Ivory Coast. Separated by six decades of cultural history, Aboudia and Bouabré constitute the most significant and innovative artists of the post-colonial era in Africa and are on the forefront of today’s global dialog on African art.

Curator Ethan Cohen explains, “By bringing these artists’ work together, we are paying homage to two African masters of world stature. Today, Aboudia is the leading name among the new wave of young African artists impacting global consciousness. And Fréderic Bruly Bouabré is widely acknowledged as one of the seminal post-colonial African artists to achieve global recognition.”

Aboudia, Gri Gri III, 2016. Mixed media on canvas, 78.8” x 118.1.” Courtesy of Ethan Cohen Gallery.

“It’s incredibly exciting to exhibit such influential African artists in New England, especially with both of these artists now gaining so much attention internationally,” said Jamestown Arts Center executive director Maureen Coleman. “In March, Aboudia was the very first artist to have a solo auction online at Christie’s New York.  Aboudia’s painting style is influenced by graffiti and tells the stories of children on the streets in his home city, Abidjan. Bouabre’s drawings present symbolic images from Ivorian life, history, and folklore. We’re honored to be able to share both artists’ work here in Rhode Island.”

Exhibitions at the Jamestown Arts Center are free and open to the public. The JAC will celebrate the opening of the African Avant-Garde on Saturday, May 8, with an outdoor collage workshop in the style of Aboudia’s work from 11 am – 1 pm and an opening reception with the curator Ethan Cohen from 2 – 4 pm. Reservations are recommended for the opening reception as capacity will be limited and can be made at www.jamestownartcenter.org 

African Avant-Garde runs from May 8 through June 26, 2021. Gallery Hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 11 am – 3 pm + Thursday, 11 am – 7 pm and by appointment by calling 401.560.0979. 

About the Artists:

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (born in 1923) underwent formal training by the colonial government. His consciousness emerged during the first opening of Africa onto the world stage as a post-colonial independent series of countries. As such his work centers on imagery that explicitly places recognizably African themes and figures in tandem with those of other continents. His message is one of diversity and unity. Philosopher, visual poet, and artist, he iterates universal truths that bind humanity. He early inhabited a time (as embodied by the 1955 Bandung Conference of non-aligned Asian and African states) when it seemed possible for emerging countries to create an alternate global awakening. 

Aboudia (born in 1983) arrived at the same sense of a global platform many decades later, just when the world re-embraced its commonality at a post-Cold War moment of digital media convergence. As an artist who grew up on the street, expressing his vision initially through the freedom of graffiti, he matured his culturally site-specific imagery into what is now instantly recognizable across continents for its power and immediacy. He is the inheritor of the mantle of Jean-Michel Basquiat and arguably Africa’s most celebrated young artist.

Aboudia’s renown has grown in the art world over the past seven years. In March 2021, Aboudia was the first artist to have a solo online auction at Christie’s New York. In 2019, he was honored in the Ivory Coast by receiving an award as a contributor to culture. He has shown in the Saatchi Gallery for two years in a row as part of the exhibitions Pangea I and Pangea II (2013/2014), and his work is in the private collections of François Pinault, the King of Morocco, and many other distinguished collections.

About the Curator:

Ethan Cohen is a distinguished NYC gallerist, art advisor, and curator with over 35 years of experience. Ethan Cohen Gallery has represented a pioneering blend of both emerging and internationally renowned artists. Mr. Cohen has steered the gallery to occupy a distinct place in contemporary art as a center of innovation across disciplines and countries. Today Ethan Cohen Gallery has two gallery locations, one in Chelsea in the heart of New York City, and the other in Beacon, New York.

Ethan Cohen first founded his gallery in 1987 as Art Waves/Ethan Cohen in SoHo, New York. A groundbreaker in the field of contemporary Chinese art, Ethan Cohen was the first gallerist to present the Chinese Avant-Garde of the 1980s to the United States, such as Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, and others. Ethan Cohen Gallery today represents a diverse global mix of contemporary and post-war contemporary art, with a focus on Chinese and African Contemporary Art. Mr. Cohen is the first gallerist to represent Aboudia in the United States.

The Jamestown Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts space that hosts art exhibits, theatre and dance performances, film screenings, “JAC Talks” and concerts, and provides art and design educational programs for people of all ages. Housed in a former boat repair shop, the JAC was awarded Best Gallery in Newport County by the Best of Rhode Island 2017 & 2018 readers’ polls.

Programming partners include: Heifetz International Music Institute, FirstWorks, RISCA, FabNewport, 10 Thousand Small Businesses, RISD, Manhattan Short Film Festival, SENE Film Festival, Providence Art and Design Film Festival, Island Moving Company, The Jamestown Schools, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, The Brown/Trinity Rep M.F.A. in Acting & Directing Program and many individual artists and local organizations. The Jamestown Arts Center has quickly become a leading arts and cultural hub, for Rhode Island and beyond, where creativity, ideas and innovation flourish. For more information go to www.jamestownartscenter.org 

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