We are pleased to present a solo exhibition of the artist Purvis Young (1943-2010, USA).
As a self-taught African-American artist, Young is known for his Expressionist paintings and collages created with found objects. He roamed the streets almost every day, searching for materials to incorporate into his work. Thus, his works are true assemblages of all kinds of urban detritus that he carefully selected. His media were exclusively recycled products, such as wood, used furniture, glass or paper, as well as pieces of carpet, metal plates, wallpaper samples and mirrors. Not only were these materials chosen for their texture, color and shape, but Young also took into account each object’s original use, and each component carries its own definition.
Purvis Young lived his entire life in Overtown, Miami’s black ghetto, formerly known as the "Harlem of the South," and painted in abandoned warehouses for over 35 years. Never having benefited from real education or a lot of advantages, the artist educated himself:
“I try to learn everything I can from the books, documentaries, and everything I got to know so I can paint the truth. I walk around and look at the peoples, too, see if the peoples are happy. (…) I get a lot of my ideas sometime just riding my bicycle around, just looking at reality, looking life right straight in its face. (…) I paint what I sees… I paint the problems of the world.”
His vibrant, colorful, and highly expressionistic work could be compared with “magical realism.” Young developed a complex pictorial language to express the harsh reality of what he saw in the world around him. His works are filled with angels watching over turbulent cityscapes, riots, faces, and numerous symbols of freedom and escape, such as wild horses, trucks, trains, planes, or fragile Haitian canoes afloat on shark-infested waters. The language of Purvis Young is universal. Considering his painting to be a form of protest, he said of his work:
“I want people to know that I wish there would be peace in the world, and I will paint the way I paint until there is, and then one day maybe I could just hang up my brush and not paint anymore.”
The artist died in 2010 at the age of 67. His work is receiving much attention these days, when American museums are rewriting the history of 20thcentury art to give black artists a more visible and meaningful place than ever before. Once regarded as an “outsider,” Young is today a leading light of Urban Expressionism. His work was recently exhibited at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and was the subject of a retrospective at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami. His artworks notably form part of the collections of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.