Purvis Young – African-American Artist

Purvis Young (American, 1943 to 2010).

A self-taught artist from the south, the majority of Young’s works depict urban life and figures surrounded by thematic imagery. Frequently rendered subjects include looming eyes, horses and trucks. Young grew up in the inner-city ghetto of Overtown and spent part of his early life incarcerated. His idealistic struggle for freedom, peace, equality and escape are common themes throughout his paintings.

Young collects discarded materials, including countertops, plywood, tin and plastic. Items thrown away by society are reused and recycled by Young, in some ways providing a commentary on his own life. Like many of the outsider artists Young had little formal education, and is compelled to produce works, often painting fifteen hours a day.
Reference: Gail Andrews Trechsel, ed. Pictured in My Mind: Contemporary American Self-Taught Art (Birmingham, Alabama, 1995), pp. 226-232.

Information courtesy of Neal Auction Company, December 2007.

Purvis Young lived and worked in Overtown when it was still a squalid Miami neighborhood. He was obsessed by books and hungry for knowledge about art, making up for a lack of formal education with intensive reading and study. It is not surprising that he made books of paintings and painted in books. He was also an outspoken activist on social and racial issues who painted on scavenged scrap lumber and plywood and on the exterior walls of abandoned buildings in his neighborhood. In the visual vocabulary of Purvis Young, city streets pulse with life, wild horses roam, Big Brother looms, ancient warriors battle, musicians improvise wildly. Recent shows include the Rubell Foundation’s Thirty Americans in Miami in 2015 and Purvis Young and New Acquisitions in 2018/2019 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2018 exhibition History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift.

Information Courtesy of Rago Arts, October, 2019.

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