Adu Jahmal: Los Angeles Artist / Renaissance Man

By Shirley Hawkins


blues3When it comes to the phrase ‘renaissance man’, multitalented artist and musician Adu Jahmal more than fits the bill.


Jahmal’s artistic talent was nurtured while growing up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, where he was inspired by the likes of Oscar Brown, Richard Wright, Jack Johnson, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Josephine Baker and Gordon Parks.


“I paint, I make clothes, I play music and I also do animation,” said Jahmal, whose work has been exhibited  at Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. The talented artist’s work has also been exhibited in galleries all over the country as well as around the world.


The artist, who once sold stocks for Lehman Brothers, said he has never regretted abandoning the ticker tape for the paint brush. “I became burned out,” Jahmal recalls. It wasn’t long before he discovered his talent  for multimedia drawing and graphic art. “I would get on the computer and draw stuff and friends said, ‘You’re a pretty good artist.’”


Adu Jahmal Studio SeattleNow living in Los Angeles, Jahmal never knows where his artistic muse will take him, whether it’s sewing a colorful kilt with a portrait of Frank L. White, the Cream of Wheat man nicknamed “America’s celebrity chef,” or restoring his beloved 1969 Volkswagen bus. The self-taught fine artist also designs furniture, dabbles in photography and multimedia, and is an accomplished musician who recently exhibited his extensive horn and drum playing skills at The Mint nightclub.


An accomplished cook as well, Jahmal has produced and hosted cooking shows and says that he has an innate talent for creating any dish on a restaurant’s menu. ”One of my favorite dishes I like to make is enchiladas,” he says. “I also make a mean fried chicken in a Hoisin barbecue sauce that I fix with rice and vegetables.”


Jahmal has also produced a number of award-winning multi-media documentaries, including one about Morfaye, the renowned Venice Biennale artist who mentored Jean Michel Basquiat.


DSCF0011The globe trotting artist has lived in China and France, where his artistry was inspired by the people and the culture. ”The first thing that struck me in Hong Kong were the millions of people everywhere and how very happy and colorful everyone was,” he recalls.  “I found that my art became brighter and more colorful after living in Hong Kong.”


The artist has also studied winemaking in Bourdeaux, France where he produced and developed his own label of wine calIed Mis en Bouteille that he continues to sell to  private collectors.


Two of Jahmal’s most famous pieces are the award-winning “Bebop Picture,” a fusion of photography and paint, and “Jazz Metropolis,” which captures a bustling street scene in Chicago that was created with a silk screen process. “The Bebop Picture has become my trademark,” said Jahmal, who said he is able to draw and paint in many different styles—from abstract to surrealism.


“Dr. Paul Wallace, a ringside boxing doctor who was recently inducted into the boxing hall of fame, recently commissioned me to do paintings of Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali.”


Despite his many talents, Jahmal feels it is important for any artist to stay proactive. “You have to try different things, and I like it all,” Jahmal reveals, who frequently can be found on Venice Beach with his mobile art shows.


Jahmal shows no signs of slowing down.  “Right now, I’m launching a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to restore my 1969 Volkswagen which is named after my grandmother, Annabelle,” he said.  “It is also my goal to raise enough money through Indiegogo to help other artists fund their own ventures and creative projects.”


To see more of Jahmal’s work, go to




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