Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929, Albany, GA) and Jae Jarrell (b. 1935, Cleveland, OH) 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 characteristics of the classic AfriCOBRA 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 of Chicago, 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.
Wadsworth Jarrell’s pattern-intensive portraits combine vibrant colors with Black Power slogans, to depict the intensity of political activism, and explore themes of music and performance. Wadsworth has developed many distinct bodies of work, including sculptures inspired by the African cultural traditions, and a series of paintings dedicated to jazz musicians. A distinctive tool Wadsworth has used in some paintings is a brick-laying trowel, something he learned to utilize in 1982, while creating a 300-foot mural at the headquarters of Westinghouse Electric Company. At FOG + Design we are pleased to present works from Jarrell’s jazz and boxing series.
Jae Jarrell is known for her revolution-themed clothing. Her garments exalt black families and culture and are worn by the artist in her daily life. 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. Jae’s work presented at FOG + Design were exhibited at AFRICOBRA: Nation Time a Collateral Event of the 58th La Biennale di Venezia.
The Jarrells both attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Wadsworth taught painting at Howard University and University of Georgia. Recent exhibitions include the 58th Venice Biennale, Cleveland Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, ICA Boston, and MoCA North Miami. Concurrent with FOG, they are featured in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at the de Young Museum; the exhibition originated at the Tate Modern and traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Broad, and will be going to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The Jarrells have a forthcoming show May 16 – July 3, 2020 at Jenkins Johnson's new gallery space and atrium at the Minnesota Street Projects, where they will be in conversation with a leading national curator and scholar and where Wadsworth will debut and sign his book AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art Towards a School of Thought. The Jarrell’s are 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 Studio Museum in Harlem. Wadsworth and Jae have been married since 1967. They live and work in Cleveland, OH.
*Five AFRICOBRA Founding Members:
Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams.