Press Releases

AFRICOBRA: Nation Time

Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

AFRICOBRA: Nation Time is an official Collateral Event of Biennale Arte 2019 (May 11th – November 24th 2019), in Venice, Italy. AFRICOBRA: Nation Time is presented by bardoLA, originated and supported by the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, and curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D.

AFRICOBRA was founded on the South Side of Chicago in 1968 by a collective of young Black artists, whose interest in Transnational Black Aesthetics led them to create one of the most distinctive visual voices in 20th Century American art. The key characteristics to what we now consider the classic AFRICOBRA look—vibrant, “cool-ade” colors, bold text, shine and positive images of Black people —were essential to everyday life in the community from which this movement emerged. It is a movement with roots in the soil, streets, classrooms, studios, and living rooms of the South Side of Chicago—yet its influence has extended around the world.

The five AFRICOBRA founders—Jeff Donaldson, Wadsworth Jarrell, Jae Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams—understood the potential power visual art has to communicate deep meaning on multiple layers. They had the sophistication to mobilize the organic elements of their everyday visual environment into something capable of affecting the hearts, minds, and spirits of contemporary people. Their collective impact, in addition to Napoleon Jones-Henderson and Nelson Stevens both of whom joined the group in 1969 on the visual arts scene helped establish the visual voice of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Their further impact—as artists, educators, and community leaders—has brought the members of AFRICOBRA to the forefront of contemporary conversations about the history, legacy, and future of Black Art in America and the world.

AFRICOBRA: Nation Time is the next chapter of  AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People, which premiered at MOCA North Miami during Art Basel Miami 2018, AFRICOBRA: Nation Time will focus entirely on the historic aspects of this vital, Chicago-born Black Arts collective. More than 40 works will be on view by Jeff Donaldson, Gerald Williams, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, and Nelson Stevens. Historic documentation, archival photographs and other ephemera will be showcased throughout the exhibition offering a unique and comprehensive narrative of AFRICOBRA’s birth and evolution on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1960s and early 1970s and its reverberating effect on the art scenes of Washington, DC, New York City, and Lagos, Nigeria.

This groundbreaking exhibition will be mounted within the historic, picturesque Venetian Gothic palazzo of Ca’ Faccanon, offering more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space. Its perfectly central location is only meters away from the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s square.

AFRICOBRA: Nation Time at Biennale Arte 2019 is the first time the work of this vital, definitive, and historic Black Arts collective has been given the opportunity to be celebrated by global audiences on this scale. AFRICOBRA: Nation Time is an exhibition of historic importance for the Black Arts Movement in the United States and all international audiences who are curious to discover more about the ways in which the aesthetic of African American artists relates to politics, culture and identity. Capturing the sentiment of their time with a visual language of vivid colors, rhythm, compositional arrangement and shine, the artists in AFRICOBRA: Nation Time reflect how a marginalized group found a way to empower themselves in a society that consistently denied them their power.

“The fullness of Blackness is important in our global culture and AFRICOBRA addresses and connects the Diaspora in their art,” said Hayes. “While it represents this movement of nationhood in the 1970s, this exhibition explores the social and political fabric that continues to hold Black people together, even through the struggle in our contemporary moment.”

The exhibition is sponsored by Kavi Gupta Gallery and made possible with the generous support from the City of North Miami, Florida, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The exhibition is also supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art as part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy. Special thanks to the Wege Foundation, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Shirley and William Lehman, Wehby Kravets Gallery.​​ The forthcoming catalogue is made possible, in part, by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

For more information about AFRICOBRA: Nation Time, please contact Abbie Lipton / Durée & Company, Inc., 954-723-9350, abbie@dureeandcompany.com or Elizabeta Betinski / bardoLA, 310-902-3027, hello@bardola.org.

bardoLA is a Los Angeles based nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting international exchange of arts and culture via traveling exhibitions and events; making art available in public spaces; and supporting its local creative community by way of partnering with like-minded entities. bardoLA was founded in 2014 by Elizabeta Betinski, a writer and curator with roots transplanted to Los Angeles from Belgrade, former Yugoslavia. Elizabeta was a founder and Director of Overtones Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles that showcased 70+ national and international artists in over forty exhibitions from 2003 through 2009. She was a co-editor of the seminal encyclopedia on Los Angeles artists, L.A. Rising: SoCal Artists Before 1980, published in December 2010 by the California/International Arts Foundation where Elizabeta served as a co-director. In 2017, Elizabeta Betinski served as the Executive Director of the inaugural Desert X, a major international biennial exhibition featuring site-specific artworks across the California desert. bardoLA presented its first Collateral Exhibition at la Biennale di Venezia in 2015, bringing twenty Los Angeles contemporary artists to the Biennale Arte 2015 with the exhibition “We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles.”

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami is dedicated to making contemporary art accessible to diverse audiences through the collection, preservation and exhibition of the best of contemporary art and its art historical influences.​ MOCA began operating in 1981, opened a new building in 1996 designed by Charles Gwarthmey of GSNY, and was the first collecting institution in Miami. MOCA premiered AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2018, and has previously presented solo and survey exhibitions of artists including Bill Viola, Tracey Emin, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Virginia Overton, Purvis Young, and Wangechi Mutu, among many others. The museum has been recognized with grants and awards from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. MOCA, North Miami is an inclusive cultural hub, embracing the diversity that defines its dynamic community, and organizing exhibitions that propel art and ideas connected to its South Florida home into the global cultural conversation. ​​​

Curator Jeffreen M. Hayes earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Art History from Howard University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Florida International University. She is currently the Executive Director of Threewalls in Chicago, and has previously worked at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Hampton University Art Museum, the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art. Her curatorial projects include “Intimate Interiors” (2012), “Etched in Collective History” (2013), “SILOS” (2016), “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” (2018), and “Process” (2019). She was a guest curator for Artpace San Antonio’s International Artist in Residence Program from May–August 2018. She is also a TEDx speaker and spoke about “Arts Activism in Simple Steps” in Fall 2018.

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