Ouattara Watts
April 23–June 4, 2022

188 & 172 East 2nd Street
New York, NY 10009

Karma is pleased to present the gallery’s first solo exhibition by Ouattara Watts, Paintings. The show is on display at the gallery’s 188 E 2nd street and 172 E 2nd street locations from April 23rd to June 4th, 2022.

Ouattara Watts paints as if he is searching for a common root shared by all living things. The mathematics of a fractal are positioned next to abstract forms. Textile patterns, belonging to traditions from across the globe are studied and layered between paint. Strings of numbers are interspersed with symbols used in Vodou divination. Ancient knowledge collides with contemporary philosophy. Modigliani converses with Shango of the orisha pantheon.

Watts identifies himself as a “citizen of the world,” a term which both expresses his life experience and his artistic practice. He grew up in the Ivory Coast, spent a decade in Paris and has lived in New York City for the past twenty five years, considering himself an American painter; his work makes a home for itself in the tumult of cultures and histories in the United States.

Ouattara’s works are frequently composed on a large, even monumental scale. Expressionist sweeps are patterned in all directions on his canvases, which are symphonies of texture—collaged together from a variety of fabrics, patterns, and found materials. Photographs peek through washes of pigment, a hat floats above a sublime collision of signs and gestures. Music is always present in Watts’s studio, where it is also a subject. Inside the Piano (2019) arranges a molecular form next to a geometric one, suspended across vertical strokes of paint, recalling the piano strings; patterns of shapes become percussive.  In Sigui (2002), Watts presents a planetary, universal scope, placing a six pointed star with numbers, like mathematical values, at its intersection. This gaze is furthered in a number of works, such as Traveler in the Cosmos #2 (2018) in which the years are stacked against a figure and a gray background is pierced by white paint, as if by a beam of light. 

Robert Farris Thompson describes Watts as an architect building a city of the 21st century, a space of “reunion, of association, and not of division”: a much needed place, where cultures, languages, and critical modalities are bridged, in which ancient traditions and distant futures weave through a vibrant present.

Karma’s exhibition of Watts’s work is accompanied by a forthcoming catalog.