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PURVIS YOUNG (1943 – 2010)

Purvis Young substituted a lack of formal education with intensive reading and study and was sophisticated about the history of art. He applied his personal world view to the medium of paint to create a visual language that expressed his concerns as much as it captured the life of the people and city that surrounded him.

After learning of the "Freedom Walls" created by artists in Detroit and Chicago, Young decided in 1972, to create his own public mural at the intersection of Northwest Third Avenue and 14th Street in Overtown, Miami's inner-city coined "Good Bread Alley." The installation was visible from the newly constructed Interstate 95, which had all but dissected and consequently isolated his community from the rest of South Florida.

Representing Young's unique view on life is a symbolic vocabulary where city street scenes move to the rhythm of life, wild horses roam free, giant blue eyes of the establishment loom over implying the all-seeing government, ancient warriors do battle, immigrant-laden boats set sail, and legendary jazz and blues performers rip. Young depicts people with raised arms to express faith, hope, and redemption. Other symbols that appear frequently in his work are: padlocks representing being imprisoned or struggling; boats serving as a metaphor for escaping from racism and suffering; trucks, trains, and railroad tracks suggesting movement, migration, and possibility; and angels and large floating heads signifying good people and the possibility of goodness in a strife-riven world.

Young made art from found and repurposed materials that he gathered from his neighborhood. He appreciated the unique textures of found materials and used everything from manila envelopes to discarded doors, mirrors, sheets of metal, discarded paperwork from local offices and scraps of all nature of material. His work ranges from small drawings on notebook paper to wall-sized multi-panel murals. His style is aggressive and personal. Every stroke of color comes from his soul. Every figure, line, shape and form is essential to the story he tells.

Please read these interviews with Purvis by Bill Arnett and Larry Clemmons to learn Purvis’s story:

Below is his obituary from the New York Times:

Buy the Purvis Young of Overtown Documentary DVD on ebay

Purvis Young Biography picture | Outsider Folk Art Gallery Purvis Young
(b.1943-2010) Miami, FL

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