Friday, May 10, 2013


AFRICOBRA in Chicago:  A collaboration between The South Side Community Art Center, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and The DuSable Museum of African American History

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 Revaand David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and TheDuSable Museum of African American History. Find details and dates above and below. A jointly published website, dedicated to the exhibitions, programs, and research, was launched 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
May 10–July 7, 2013

3801 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL

This opening exhibition, curated by University of Chicago students, will draw on SSCAC’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 will launch a series of programs that will continue at the other venues. It will also afford the SSCAC the opportunity to present recent research and conservation work on its collection.

AFRICOBRA: Philosophy  
June 28–August 11, 2013

University of Chicago
915 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL

The exhibition, curated by Rebecca Zorach, a professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, who is also guiding the student-driven curatorial framework of the SSCAC exhibition, is designed to highlight the aesthetic philosophy of AFRICOBRA first articulated in statements and exhibition text in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The exhibition in the Logan Center Gallery will demonstrate how the AFRICOBRA philosophy was collaboratively developed by the five founding members, through a presentation of key early works and selected current works, raising the question of how founding principles continue to inform each artist. Themes addressed include the revolutionary politics of the period, the project of bringing art to the people through a range of media, and the relationship of gender roles and family to the political context of the time.

AFRICOBRA: Art and Impact
July 26–September 29, 2013

740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL

This portion of the exhibition is curated by Arlene Turner Crawford, visual artist, with Charles Bethea, Chief Operating Officer and Curator of DuSable. It documents 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 asserts the major impact of AFRICOBRA on the visual arts in Chicago, particularly on the South Side, in the period of the Black Arts Movement. AFRICOBRA artists committed themselves to the principles of social responsibility, artistic excellence, local artistic involvement and the promotion of pride in Black self-identity. The works selected for this exhibition 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 on the visual arts.

Major support has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, an organization dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the Terra Foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research, and educational programs. Additional support for the South Side Community Art Center portion of the project has been provided by the Chicago Community Trust. Additional support has also been provided by the University of Chicago Arts Council.

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