Born in Albany, Georgia in 1929, Wadsworth Jarrell is a painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Upon moving to Chicago, Illinois, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago for advertising and graphic design. He eventually lost his interest in commercial art, shifting interests to painting and drawing. Inspired by theories learned in school and scenes of everyday life in black Chicago, his focus was on horse racing, jazz clubs, and bars; often bringing a sketchpad with him to such locations. Read more
His early works display the “two-dimensional illusionism” he learned in school, while color is used to depict movement and stability; eventually transforming into brighter and bolder color compositions, sometimes detracting from the aesthetics of the final product. He later began working with watercolor during the 1960s: a turning point in his career, as his brushstrokes grew to be rapid, allowing him to convey strong movement. He later became interested in the effects of different types of light on the environment, initiating subsequent experimentation with pigments, media, imagery, and design; enabling him to express himself in the fullest extent. In 1964, Chicago endured two grandiose race riots. With tensions growing higher in the years to come and violence in Chicago increasing, the Black Power Movement then gained prominence; several African American artists joining to express black pride, self-determination and self-reliance. This led in to the development of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), of which Jarrell was a prominent member. Through OBAC, he was able to contribute to the Wall of Respect mural; his section focusing on rhythm and blues, portraying black musicians. In 1968, Jarrell and his wife opened WJ Studio and Gallery, gaining a frequent group following. Considered one of the best aligned and organized collectives in the Black Arts Movement, this group (Jarrell included) went on to found AfriCOBRA. During the mid-1970s onward, studies of African art became Jarrell’s main area of influence. Additionally, after moving to Georgia in the late 1970’s, the theme of horse-racing and jazz music was also revisited. During the 1980s, Jarrell began working in sculpture, encapsulating all aspects of his prior influences, from horse-racing, to music, but mainly reflecting on African culture and heritage.