AFRICOBRA co-founder Jeff Donaldson introduced the concept of 'I am better than those motherfuckers and they know it,' but, as Wadsworth Jarrell jokes, 'It brought about laughter, because most people...
AFRICOBRA co-founder Jeff Donaldson introduced the concept of "I am better than those motherfuckers and they know it," but, as Wadsworth Jarrell jokes, "It brought about laughter, because most people weren't interested in writing that on their painting. Wadsworth took on the challenge and chose as his subject matter blues musicians, because, as he says, he knew an African American Blues musician would be superior to a white Blues musician, because African Americans invented the Blues. Jarrell put the Beatles in the background of the painting, choosing them as the most iconic representation of this discrepancy. The painting also includes the letter B repeated throughout the composition—a common motif in Jarrell's works, suggestive of the phrase "Black is Beautiful."
Artist Biography Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929, United States) is a painter, sculptor, and co-founder of the Black Arts collective AFRICOBRA. Recent exhibitions include AFRICOBRA: Nation Time, an official collateral exhibition of the 2019 Venice Biennale, and AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, and Soul of a Nation, which originated at the Tate Modern.
Born in Albany, Georgia, Jarrell was raised on a working farm. Inspired by the art in the Saturday Evening Post, he hoped to become an illustrator. He joined the US Army after high school and became the company artist for his unit. After the army, Jarrell moved to Chicago. While working at the International Paint factory, he enrolled in night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Initially focused on design and illustration, he switched his attention to fine art after visiting various Chicago art museums. Back in Georgia, blacks had not been allowed inside museums. Seeing masterpieces for the first time in person inspired Jarrell. He enrolled full time at SAIC in 1954, and earned his BA in 1958.
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. His work is widely collected, and is included in several important institutional collections, including that of the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of Africa American History and Culture, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
The artist's studio, Chicago, IL, USA Kavi Gupta gallery, Chicago, IL, USA
Heritage: Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell, 2017, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA Africobra50, 2018, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA Africobra: Messages to the People, 2018, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL, USA Africobra: Nation Time, 2019, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy