Born in Brooklyn, New York, Stevens received his BFA in painting from Ohio University in Athens, OH in 1962. He received his MFA in 1969 from Kent State University in Kent, OH. After brief teaching stints in Cleveland, Ohio, Stevens was hired as Assistant Professor of Art at Northern Illinois University where he taught from 1969 to 1971. It was at this time that Stevens was invited to join the newly formed art collective AfriCOBRA – the group was founded by Chicago artists Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams. Stevens exhibited in every AfriCOBRA art exhibition beginning with AfriCOBRA I at the Studio Museum.
I create from the rythmic color-rappin-life-style of Black folk. I believe that art can breathe life, and life is what we are about.” – Nelson Stevens
Today artworks by Nelson Stevens are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian Institution. His artwork is also included in the museum exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power presently at the Tate Modern, London.
Galerie Myrtis consigns historic AfriCOBRA painting with Swann Auction Galleries
This iconic image by Nelson Stevens is the first important painting and AfriCOBRA art work by the artist to come to auction. Nelson Stevens was a member of the Chicago-based collective AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists).
Jihad Nation was exhibited in AfriCobra 1: Ten in Search of a Nation at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, June 21 – August 30, 1970. This was the first AfriCOBRA exhibition of the ten artists from Chicago. It later traveled the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Arts, Boston and Black Expo, Chicago.