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.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.
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.
*Five AFRICOBRA Founding Members:
Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams.