As with works like John Coltrane (1992), At the Races is representative of a shift in method and style that Wadsworth jarrell instigated in the 1980s, and which carries through to this day. The shift is epitomized by the use of specialized tools that Jarrell constructed out of cardboard, and by cutting grooves into plastic paint scrapers. These tools allowed him to imbue his surfaces with sumptuous, impasto patterns, bringing new textures and almost sculptural dimensions into the work. This period also marks a time when Jarrell was relying more on spray guns to create the gradiated backgrounds of his works, where luminous, vibrant oranges, yellows, purples and greens form a haunting, ethereal support for the symbolic, abstract, and figurative elements of the composition, an effect that is particularly strong in At the Races. This image also reflects strongly on a lifelong interest Jarrell has had in the culture of horse racing.
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.
Wadsworth Jarrell, Come Saturday Punch, 2019, Chicago IL, United States