Jenkins Johnson presents three artists who explore environmental, social and political issues of the Black Diaspora: Aubrey Williams and Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell. Williams, a key post-war painter in Britain and a founding member of the 1960s Caribbean Artists Movement, blended Black diasporic contextual markers into his abstract works. The Jarrells, founding members of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), helped create and define the aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement.
Aubrey Williams (1926 Guyana – 1990 London), a key figure of Post-War painting in Britain, is being rediscovered. His transatlantic presence (time in Guyana, the Caribbean and London) uses abstraction as a cross-cultural translation. His paintings unite references ranging from astronomy, ecology, pre-Columbian iconography and music. Recent exhibitions include: “Artists & Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past,” Tate Modern; “Get Up, Stand Up Now,” Somerset House; and “The Gift of Art,” Perez Art Museum Miami. He was a founding member of the 1960s Caribbean Artists Movement, received the Commonwealth Prize in Painting from Queen Elizabeth II in 1965, and the Golden Arrow of Achievement from the Guyanese government in 1979.
The Jarrells are founding members of AFriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). AfriCOBRA, founded on the South Side of Chicago in 1968 by a collective of young Black artists, whose interest in Transnational Black Aesthetics led them to create one of the most distinctive visual voices in 20th Century American art. The characteristic of the classic AfriCOPBRA look are vibrant “Kool-Aid” colors, bold text and positive images of Black people, essential to everyday life in the community from which the movement emerged. AfriCOBRA established a philosophical and aesthetic foundation for the Black Arts movement of the 1960s, and 70s. The founders’ vision has its roots in the streets, classrooms, studios and living rooms of the South Side, yet its impact has extended around the world, influencing artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley. Throughout their careers, Wadsworth, a painter, and Jae, a fashion designer, painter and sculptor have celebrated the struggles, strengths and beauty of African Americans in their art.
Jae Jarrell (b. 1935, Cleveland, Ohio) is known for her one-of-a-kind revolution-themed fine art garments exalt Black families and culture. Her grandfather was a professional tailor, and her uncle was a haberdasher and sold the notions needed for sewing. Jae taught herself how to make her own clothing and reveled in the fact that her fashion was unique and had a secret vintage past. When she lived in Chicago, she had a boutique in the Hyde Park neighborhood called “Jae of Hyde Park.” She makes “garments with patterns, textures and colors that duplicate the richness of the patterns, textures and colors of Blackness.” Her work is influenced by African sculpture, weavings and jewelry. Currently, she incorporates fashion with sculpture and painting.
Her recent exhibitions include We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-1985, the 58th Venice Biennale, Cleveland Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, ICA Boston, MoCA North Miami, and the touring exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which started at the Tate Modern. She recently participated in the Toronto Biennial of Art. With her husband, painter and sculptor Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae has a forthcoming show at Jenkins Johnson's new gallery space and atrium at the Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco. Jae is in many collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, High Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Rennie Collection. She lives and works in Cleveland, OH. Jae attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Howard University.
Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929, Albany, GA) a painter and photographer, creates pattern-intensive portraits that combine vibrant colors with Black Power slogans to depict the intensity of political activism. He also documented the musical life that flourished in Chicago in the late 1960s and 1970s. He was a member of the Organization of Black American Culture and painted the “Rhythm and Blues” section of The Wall of Respect mural that was located on the South Side of Chicago. In addition to being an artist, he was a professor at Howard University, the University of Georgia, Athens, and in Cortona, Italy. Currently, he continues to experiment in his practice with past and present topics surrounding blackness. He is married to Jae Jarrell.
Recent exhibitions include the 58th Venice Biennale, Cleveland Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, ICA Boston, MoCA North Miami, and the touring exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which started at the Tate Modern. He recently participated in the Toronto Biennial of Art. With his wife, the artist Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth has a forthcoming show at Jenkins Johnson's new gallery space and atrium at the Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco. Wadsworth recently debuted his book AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art Towards a School of Thought. Mr. Jarrell is in many collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, High Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, National Museum of African American History and Culture and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Wadsworth lives and works in Cleveland, OH. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago and received his MFA from Howard University. He later taught painting at Howard University and University of Georgia, Athens.