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b. 1962, USA

Wadsworth Jarrell Biography

Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929, USA) is a painter and sculptor born in Albany, Georgia. Raised on a working farm, he was inspired by the art in the Saturday Evening Post. While serving in the Army he became the company artist for his unit. After the army, Jarrell enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned his BA in 1958. After college, Jarrell established his painting practice on Chicago's south side.

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Jarrell's work is currently a pivotal element of two major international exhibitions: Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, currently on view at SFMOMA, and AFRICOBRA: Nation Time, an official collateral exhibition of the 2019 Venice Biennale. In 1968, Jarrell came to prominence as one of the five co-founders of 'AFRICOBRA' (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), a Black artist collective formed on the South Side of Chicago, which helped define the visual language of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Yet, for decades prior, Jarrell had already been experimenting with his aesthetic voice, transitioning gradually from the illustrative figuration of paintings like Come Saturday (1959), to the Orphic Cubist-inspired, abstract dynamism of Cockfight (1965). Jarrell was already a mature painter when he contributed to the development of the AFRICOBRA aesthetic. The group's embrace of 'cool-ade' colours, text, and positive images of the Black community may be seen as an enlargement of Jarrell's voice, but as we can see in paintings like Sign of the Times (1966) and Shore Market (1968), to a large degree these ideas were already emerging out of his own experiments.

Essential to his work is Jarrell's belief that the creation of an art object is inherently personal. Though informed by history and governed by material realities, his process always begins and ends with his own experiences. Many of the seminal works he painted at the height of the AFRICOBRA years—like Black Family (1968) and Boss Couple (1970)—directly reference Jarrell's personal life. Even seemingly less personal works, such as I Am Better Than Those Motherfuckers and They Know It (1969) and Homage to a Giant (1970), examine the broader culture through Jarrell's distinctly individuated point of view.

Jarrell's work is included in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of Africa American History and Culture, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.

Text courtesy Kavi Gupta.

Wadsworth Jarrell Featured Artworks

Navaga by Wadsworth Jarrell contemporary artwork
Wadsworth JarrellNavaga, 1974Acrylic on canvas
127 x 61 cm
Kavi Gupta Contact Gallery
Boss Couple by Wadsworth Jarrell contemporary artwork
Wadsworth JarrellBoss Couple, 1970Acrylic on canvas
91.4 x 69.8 cm
Kavi Gupta Contact Gallery

Wadsworth Jarrell Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, The Figure In Solitude at Kavi Gupta, Online Only, Chicago
Closed
14–27 April 2020 Group Exhibition The Figure In Solitude Kavi GuptaOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Radical Optimism at Kavi Gupta, Online Only, Chicago
Closed
7–20 April 2020 Group Exhibition Radical Optimism Kavi GuptaOnline Only

Wadsworth Jarrell Represented By

Kavi Gupta contemporary art gallery in Washington Blvd, Chicago, USA Kavi Gupta Chicago
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