AFRICOBRA in Chicago is a linked series of exhibitions and public programs scheduled May–September 2013 focusing on the Chicago artist group AFRICOBRA (African Commune Of Bad Relevant Artists), founded in 1968 and still active.
The founding members, Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams, came together in 1968 on the South Side of Chicago and had a lasting impact on peers and subsequent generations. This project examines AFRICOBRA’s broader contexts, its history, and its immediate and continuing impact on contemporary art and culture. It will also create opportunities for educational engagement with the collective’s work and philosophy.
AFRICOBRA in Chicago is co-presented by three South Side institutions: The South Side Community Art Center, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and The DuSable Museum of African American History. Find details and dates above and below. A jointly published website, dedicated to the exhibitions, programs, and research, will launch in May 2013 and will see continued development through the run of the exhibitions.
In 1968, the five founding members of AFRICOBRA created an aesthetic philosophy to guide their collective work—a shared visual language for positive revolutionary ideas. Several members worked together on the “Wall of Respect,” a mural at 43rd Street and Langley in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Early exhibitions and meetings were held in nearby Woodlawn. The group defined its mission as “an approach to image making which would reflect and project the moods, attitudes, and sensibilities of African Americans independent of the technical and aesthetic strictures of Euro-centric modalities.”
In the spirit of AFRICOBRA’s philosophy, which emphasized educational values and a group ethos (“to transcend the ‘I’ or ‘me’ for the ‘us’ or ‘we’”), three South Side institutions have come together in collaboration. Intense periods of adult and youth programming will coincide with the short overlap between each exhibition closing and the next opening.
The three interlinked exhibitions are organized as follows:
AFRICOBRA: Prologue – The 1960s and the Black Arts Movement
Opening: Friday, May 10, 6–9pm
This opening exhibition draws on the South Side Community Art Center’s permanent collection to present a broader context for AfriCOBRA’s years of formation, documenting political issues and artistic developments. It provides historical background and contemporary context for the other exhibitions and launches programs that will continue at the other venues. It also affords the SSCAC the opportunity to present recent research and conservation work on its collection.
Artists include Sherman Beck, Bob Black, Sylvester Britton, Dr. Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs, Elizabeth Catlett, Bob Crawford, Barbara Jones-Hogu, William McBride Jr., Archibald J. Motley Jr., Alonzo Souleigh Parham, William Edouard Scott, Robert A. Sengstacke, John H. Sibley, Herbert Temple, Douglas R. Williams, Jose Williams, and Charles White.
Opening: Friday, June 28, 6–9pm
Founders panel: Saturday, June 29, 2–4pm
The exhibition at the Logan Center Gallery, curated by Rebecca Zorach, Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago, focuses on the AfriCOBRA approach to image making collaboratively developed by the five founding members. The broad selection of prints, paintings, and textile works demonstrate how AfriCOBRA’s philosophy advanced key themes of revolution and family and how it drove the creation of inexpensive printed artworks “for the people” by founding artists and other early members of the group. Selected recent works also pose the question of how founding principles continue to inform the artists’ work.
Artists include Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Carolyn Lawrence, Nelson Stevens, Gerald Williams.
AFRICOBRA: Art and Impact
Opening: Friday July 26 6–9pm
The exhibition at the DuSable Museum is curated by Arlene Turner-Crawford, visual artist, with Charles Bethea, COO and Curator of DuSable. This chapter will document how AfriCOBRA flourished and influenced other artists in Chicago—artists who became official members of the group, and other artists who exhibited work in AfriCOBRA shows. The exhibition will assert the major impact of AfriCOBRA on the visual arts in Chicago, particularly on the South Side, in the period of the Black Arts Movement. The works selected for this exhibition will highlight the continuing development of “positive images,” focusing on AfriCOBRA’s aesthetic vocabulary and pursuing its key themes of self-determination, African heritage and solidarity, as well as the inspiration of music to the visual arts.
Artists include Sherman Beck, Dorothy Carter, Kevin Cole, Adgar Cowens, Murray DePillars, Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Omar Lama, Carolyn Lawrence, Dayo Laoye, Turtel Onli, Joyce Owens, James Phillips, Frank Smith, Nelson Stevens, Raymond Thomas, Arlene Turner-Crawford, and Gerald Williams, among others to be announced.