Jae Jarrell (b. 1935, Cleveland, OH) is a fashion designer, painter, sculptor, and a founding member 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, created one of the most distinctive visual voices in 20th Century American art through the exploration of their interest in Transnational Black. The characteristics of the classic AfriCOBRA look are vibrant “Cool Ade” 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 her career, Jae has celebrated the struggles, strengths and beauty of African Americans in her art.
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. Jarrell has deftness for combining a variety of media. In her practice she combines her passion for music and the board game Scrabble. Akin to the core values of the AfriCOBRA collective, jazz occupies a global presence and demonstrates to the world the creativity and innovation belonging to Black artists. However, it is not uncommon for the brilliant work of a Black artist to be celebrated while their personhood or identity is forgotten.
Exhibitions from the past years include Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power organized by Tate Modern which traveled to Brooklyn Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Broad, and ended at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Mrs. Jarrell was also featured in We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-1985, AfricaCOBRA: Nation Time an official collateral event of the 58th Venice Biennale, Cleveland Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, ICA Boston, and MoCA North Miami. Other recent exhibitions The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side 1960-1980 at the Smart Museum of Art, the Toronto Biennial of Art, The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now at MCA Chicago, ICA Philadelphia, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Heritage: Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Mrs. Jarrell is in institutional collections including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Rennie Collection, and the Smart Museum of Art. In 2022 Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell will have solo exhibitions at Jenkins Johnson Gallery. She lives and works in Cleveland, OH. Mrs. Jarrell attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Howard University.
*Five AfriCOBRA Founding Members:
Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams.