AfriCOBRA Special to air February 27, 8:00PM/7:00C
On Sunday February 27th in honor of Black History Month TV Land pays tribute to the art and artists of AfriCOBRA, a group of Chicago-based artists who create images that affirm and uplift the Black community. The inspiring special is comprised of contemporary interviews with the AfriCOBRA artists, enhanced displays of their artwork and an engaging and animated history of the group, which continues to create innovative artwork today.
TV Land Honors the Artists of AfriCOBRA
In Chicago 1968, amid a tide of social change and political upheaval, a group of artists came together and began to define a uniquely black aesthetic in visual arts. They sought to make art that spoke directly to the needs, aspirations and experiences of black America, and that celebrated what was beautiful and heroic about black culture.
The seed of what would become the AfriCOBRA collective was planted at the “Wall of Respect,” a mural on a Chicago building that depicted black heroes and leaders, painted by the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC). The wall became both a meeting place and the community’s visual affirmation of African American cultural, intellectual and political heritage.
A group of artists who contributed to the wall came together to form the Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists (COBRA) – a collective that began a national dialog that was pro-black without being anti anything else. COBRA added new members, began an international dialog, and evolved into AfriCOBRA, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. Its members went on to produce work that brought about a major shift in perspective for black Art and black artists. With a new generation of currently active member artists, AfriCOBRA’s legacy within the art community endures.
AfriCOBRA founder Jeff Donaldson was born in Pine Bluff, Ark. in 1932. He received a BA in studio art from the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff in 1954, after establishing the school’s first arts major. He studied under John Howard, who had been a student of Harlem Renaissance painter Hale Woodruff and nurtured Donaldson’s interest in Afrocentric art.
Founding AfriCOBRA member Wadsworth Jarrell was born in 1929 in Albany, Ga. and moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s. He attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was awarded a BFA in 1958. As a member of the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC), he helped execute the famous “Wall of Respect” outdoor mural on the South Side of Chicago in 1967. That same year he married fellow artist Elaine “Jae” Jarrell.
Born in Cleveland, Elaine “Jae” Jarrell attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio before moving to Chicago. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She married artist Wadsworth Jarrell in 1967 and with him helped form what became the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) in 1968. Jae was a gifted clothing designer and contributed hand-made and adorned garments to AfriCOBRA exhibitions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Napoleon Jones-Henderson was born in Chicago in 1943. He was awarded a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1971, and pursued graduate studies at Northern Illinois University in 1974. In 2005, he received a MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art. He has been an active member of AfriCOBRA since 1969 and is the longest standing member of the group.
Painter Carolyn Lawrence grew up in Houston and received a degree in education from the University of Texas in Austin in 1961. She started teaching in Gary, Ind. immediately after graduation, and then went on to complete her MA in art education at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Michael D. Harris
Michael Harris is an associate professor of art history at Emory University and also serves as the consulting curator for the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art and Culture in Charlotte, NC. Previously, Harris was an associate professor of African and African-American art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 11 years. In spring 2004, he served as the visiting professor of art at Dillard University in New Orleans, and has taught at Duke University, Georgia State University, Morehouse College and Wellesley College. He also served as the Consulting Curator for African American Art at the High Museum in Atlanta from 2005 to 2009.
Howard Mallory is a sculptor and ceramic artist who joined AfriCOBRA in 1971 and exhibited with the group during their Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition in 1971 and in their Howard University exhibition of 1973. Mallory studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Texas Western College. Early in his career he worked as a instructor in ceramics at the Parkway Community House in Chicago and exhibited his work at regional art exhibitions. He continues to work from his home and studio on the South Side of Chicago where he has installed an outdoor work entitled “The Freedom Train.”
Barbara Jones-Hogu was born in Chicago. She received a BA from Howard University in 1959, a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1964, and a MS with a concentration in printmaking from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1970.