Experimental Art toward a School of Thought


Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 89 color illustrations Published: May 2020

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Art and Visual Culture

Formed on the South Side of Chicago in 1968 at the height of the civil rights, Black power, and Black arts movements, the AFRICOBRA collective created a new artistic visual language rooted in the culture of Chicago's Black neighborhoods. The collective's aesthetics, especially the use of vibrant color, capture the rhythmic dynamism of Black culture and social life. In AFRICOBRA, painter, photographer, and collective cofounder Wadsworth A. Jarrell tells the definitive story of the group's creation, history, and artistic and political principles. From accounts of the painting of the groundbreaking Wall of Respect mural and conversations among group members to documentation of AFRICOBRA's exhibits in Chicago, New York, and Boston, Jarrell outlines how the collective challenged white conceptions of art by developing an artistic philosophy and approach wholly divested of Western practices. Featuring nearly one hundred color images of artworks, exhibition ephemera, and photographs, this book is at once a sourcebook history of AFRICOBRA and the story of visionary artists who rejected the white art establishment in order to create uplifting art for all Black people.


“What an amazing testimony from a founding member of one of the most important artists' collectives of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries! Kudos to Wadsworth A. Jarrell for his thoroughly engaging and art historically significant memoir.” — Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Distinguished Professor of Art & Art History, Duke University

“The principles and philosophy of the collective AFRICOBRA in many ways defined the parameters of art making for politically conscious African American artists during the era of Black power. Who can forget their stunning manifesto that emphasized standards such as coolade color, shine, free symmetry, and mimesis at midpoint?! Now Wadsworth A. Jarrell‘s new book brings us a first-person account of this group and period from an artist who was there from the start. Beautifully illustrated, it offers a fresh perspective and significant references, and it serves as an important sourcebook for late twentieth-century practice. As the study of art moves beyond a New York--centric approach, histories coming out of major centers like Chicago are especially important. AFRICOBRA joins a growing body of literature on art making outside New York; it will allow a plethora of new chronicles to be written.” — Kellie Jones, Columbia University

"AFRICOBRA is a timely book as part of a movement that remains current as many art organizations are assessing their complicity in the suppression and appropriation of Black voices. This book will be of interest to scholars of African American art history and American art history in general." — Laura Haynes, ARLIS/NA


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Fall2020 Online Sale
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Wadsworth A. Jarrell is a cofounder of AFRICOBRA and a visual artist who has taught art at Howard University, the University of Georgia, and Spelman College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  x
Black Art and the Black Aesthetic  xv
AFRICOBRA: Principles and Philosophy  xvii
Foreword / Richard Allen May III  xxi
Acknowledgments  xxv
Introduction  1
Black in Chicago  19
Genesis  41
The Wall of Respect  49
The Inception  75
A Visual Art Proposal  91
First Cobra Exhibition  109
Recruitment  119
Postscript / Edmund Barry Gaither  241
Exhibitions  247
Reviews and Media Interviews  249
AFRICOBRA in Art Collections  251
AFRICOBRA in Books  253
Notes  255
Artist Biographies  263
Index  271
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0056-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0042-6