Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jae Jarrell's Urban Wall Suit, ca 1969

This righteous "Urban Wall Suit" was stitched by textile artist and clothes designer Jae Jarrell ca. 1969.

According to David Lusenhop, an independent scholar who focuses on the Black Arts Movement, "This garment was exhibited in the first AfriCOBRA exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1970. Jae plays off traditions including quilting, graffiti, and high fashion... It's an important work, and represents the extension of the AfriCOBRA ideas in to the street, where one can represent in public, and not just in visual arts venues like museums and galleries."

Now my appetite is whet to learn more about Ms. Jarrell and about AfriCOBRA! Do you know much about the movement? There's a Fans of AfriCOBRA on Facebook - have a look at the nearly 100 photos. I wonder where the Urban Wall Suit is today. Do you think quilted fashions can make such a political statement today? Do tell! Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of the Azzi-Lusenhop Black Arts Movement Collection, Chicago. Thanks Mr. L!


Willa said...

I think this is very intriqueing. I also wonder where it is today. Since my history is more in garment making.. this really speaks to me. Thanks for finding such treasures to share Kyra.

Scarlett Burroughs said...

Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful garment. I linked to your post here,

Scarlett Burroughs
Quilting Editor, Craft Gossip


This is so beautiful and unique. It one of this unique things that is sure to start a wonderful conversation.

Karoda said...

a search for her online has her living in Cleveland since 2009 after running a vintage gentleman's clothing store in NYC for many years. this sounds like an interview for our roving Black Threads Quilt Journalist ;)

Big Mama said...

This could be a whiole new genre of quilting. I am thinking of
that blue dress from awhile back on this blog...quilting wearable clothing. Though this suit was made years ago, justing seeing it here, it's "off the chain!"

David Lusenhop said...

I am happy you find Jae Jarrell's "Urban Wall Suit" intriguing. It is one of a number of garments that Jae created in the late 60s and early 70s as a member of the Chicago-based artist collective called the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. AfriCOBRA artists were activists too, who made their work in the service of Black liberation causes. Jae is, perhaps, best known for a two-piece suit that was titled "Revolutionary Suit," which appeared on the cover of Jet magazine in the early 1970s. The article that features her piece was titled "Black Revolt Sparks White Fashion Craze." To this day, Jae will tell you that her use of a faux gun belt in her suit was one of the reasons for the mainstream fashion trend that involved "militant" fashions in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work as an artist/activist was quite serious, and she feels that mainstream society and other popular media forms, including Blaxploitation films, misunderstood and misused her messages, and those of her colleagues. Best, David Lusenhop.
P.S. The "Urban Wall Suit" is in my personal collection in Chicago, along with other work by AfriCOBRA artists.

Anonymous said...

Correction: I incorrectly stated that artist Jae Jarrell's "Revolutionary Suit" appeared on the cover of Jet Magazine. It did not. The work first appeared in the national press in the October 1970 edition of "Black World" magazine published by Johnson Publications. A model (incorrectly identified as the artist) wears the suit on page 85 of an article entitled "10 in Search of Nation" which highlighted the achievements of the AfriCOBRA artist collective. Later, in the January 28, 1971 edition of Jet Magazine, in an article entitled "Black Revolt Sparks White Fashion Craze," Jarrell's "Revolutionary Suit" is modeled by artist Barbara Jones-Hog on page 45 of the issue. Thank you to Ms. Jarrell for pointing out my mistake. We must get the history right! David Lusenhop