Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929, Albany, GA) is 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, 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 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, yet its impact has extended around the world, influencing artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley. Throughout his career, Wadsworth has celebrated the struggles, strengths and beauty of African Americans in his art.
Jarrell is a painter and photographer who 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. Jarrell 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. Currently, he continues to experiment in his practice with past and present topics surrounding blackness. He is married to Jae Jarrell.
Mr. Jarrell’s work is in many collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, 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. He was included in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power organized by Tate Modern which traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Broad, DeYoung Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Other recent exhibitions include the AfricaCOBRA: Nation Time an official collateral event of the 58th Venice Biennale, AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, The Time Is Now! Art Worlds of Chicago’s South Side 1960-1980 at the Smart Museum of Art, Heritage: Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell at The Cleveland Museum of Art, and The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now at MCA Chicago, ICA Philadelphia, and The Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2020, Wadsworth debuted his book AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art Towards a School of Thought and was interviewed with Jae Jarrell by Hans Ulrich Obrist as part of Obrist’s Interview Project. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago and received his MFA from Howard University. Jarrell taught painting at Howard University and University of Georgia. In 2022, Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell will have solo exhibitions at Jenkins Johnson Gallery. He lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.
*Five AfriCOBRA Founding Members:
Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams.