He turned out to be neither rich,  nor a player, but an engaging, sincere brother, who was
    planted firmly on the ground, and who’s life was art. And yes, he was a real artist.  Wadsworth
    Jarrell's world consisted of working as a graphic artist and photographer at a downtown ad
    agency; cranking out oil paintings and showing in art fairs; and keeping company with a fashion
    artist named Elaine Jae Johnson, whom he married in 1967.  Our paths didn't’t cross very much
    at first, but, as time passed he shared his many thoughts about art and painting, and he and
    Jae even shared a few meals with me. Since I was a student, I felt as though I was always in the
    presence of a super talent. In a short period of time I became accustomed to the bold, broad
    brush strokes, and bright colors that characterized his painting style.  His evolution from
    painting scenes of people hanging out in lounges, cock fights, jockeys astride race horses,  
    riders in the subway, to the characters in the acrylic paintings he does today, Wadsworth’s
    work soared into the stratosphere with the beginning of AFRICOBRA. His work, without
    question, is the standard by which the groups painting can be judged.  This was as true in the
    beginning as it is today.    Much about his development is contained in his biography, The
    Making of a Revolutionary Artist.

    That vintage, ivy-covered studio at 1521 East 61st Street may have been at the end of a dead
    end street in a desolate, ravaged neighborhood awaiting the bulldozers, but it certainly did not
    portend bleakness with respect to Wadsworth’s artistic career.  For, unlike many of the other
    artists in and around Chicago who abandoned their careers in favor of gainful employment in
    the Post Office, steel mills, stock yards or in other occupations, Wadsworth quit his day job and
    dedicated his time to painting and to photography and was all the better for having done so.  
    He talks openly and honestly, and often, about his early experience getting his work out there
    and becoming recognized in an un-welcoming mainstream art world, which had never been
    kind to the faint hearted or dispassionate artist, treated the committed, talented artists like
    abused step children, and perpetuated an elitism based on favored kinsmen.  The Chicago art
    scene seemed, correspondingly, downright brutal in it’s indifference toward non-white artists -
    who expressed a decidedly non-white World view.  Black artists were veritably invisible.  
    Wadsworth can tell you in very colorful language about how demonstrably  surprised
    suburbanites at art fairs were when they saw the few Black artists who had booths.   Against
    that backdrop, along with the seething atmosphere of social change and the gang violence in
    the neighborhood,  the artists of AFRICOBRA were hosted by Jarrell regularly on that dead end

    Where the South Side Art Center on South Michigan Avenue once was a bastion for African-
    American artists who were engaged in WPA projects during the Great Depression, by the
    1960's it was a virtual Mecca for another crop of grateful artists seeking opportunities to learn
    and to expose their talent before a highly appreciative community.  A number of artist-owned
    galleries, also, sprang up in the  60's to greatly complement the efforts of the South Side Art
    Center.  Their coming into existence coincided with the ascendant Afri-centric culture that
    blasted its way into American culture in ways never seen before.  The WJ Studio and Gallery,
    operated by Wadsworth and his wife Jae was one of those galleries.  With art openings
    featuring poetry readings, and music by members of the Association for the Advancement of
    Creative Musicians,  and saxophonist Jose Williams, the owner of AFAM gallery, WJ Studio and
    Gallery became an important focal point for Black art in the city.    

    Always the focal point of Wadsworth’s paintings, the life and culture surrounding African-
    American sensibilities served as the reservoir from which scores of artists derived much of
    their inspiration.  Their creative energy left a legacy for generations to admire, to emulate, and
    to keep alive.   To view the following works by Wadsworth, who pays tribute to numerous jazz
    musicians, is to be transported through ether to the golden age of jazz in the late 1940's
    -1950's when nightclubs and ballrooms were jam packed with lovers of "the music" out for the
    evening to see and to hear the kings and queens at their gut level best. In all of his paintings,
    not just these tributes, the undulating bands of vivid color, luminous forms, and rhythmic
    patterns are the life force of Jarrell's work in the same way that riffs, trills, vamps, and funky,
    engaging improvisations are the universally recognized core of jazz.  Wadsworth keeps it all
    alive for us, reminding all, in this so-called era of "post Black," or "post racial" culture, that the
    reservoir is as full as ever....


Gerald Williams
March 2009