PURVIS YOUNG, 1943-2010
Purvis Young, 67, self-taught painter from Overtown in Miami who is celebrated for vigorous but simple imagery that is by turns political and poetic, died in a Miami nursing home on Apr. 20 after a long battle with diabetes. One of his favorite motifs was herds of wild horses. During a rough-and-tumble youth in the Miami inner-city, Young grew to identify with the Black Panthers and the African-American quest for social justice before spending two stretches in prison, first in the early 1960s for armed robbery and again after the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami, when his heated political rhetoric prompted the repeal of his parole.
In prison he began drawing in earnest, and between ’68 and ’74 started making paintings on scavenged sheets of plywood found in the Miami streets. His quick and brushy images featured outstretched black hands, jail bars, watching eyes, trucks and cars, policemen and angels. Young began installing these works in his own three-block-long "Freedom Wall" on abandoned buildings alongside I-95 in the Miami ghetto, a site that was called "Goodbread Alley" after the bakeries that had formerly been housed there.
Young’s installation came to an end in the 1975 urban renewal, but not before a local art patron had taken note, and Young was given a series of exhibitions at Miami museums. Over the years he showed at galleries and museums in the U.S. and Europe; his many museum shows included "Souls Grown Deep" at the Emory University Museum in 1996 and in "Purvis Young: The Life I See" at the Bass Museum in 2002. The documentary film, Purvis of Overtown, was released in 2006. Purvis Young is represented in New York by Skot Foreman Fine Art, which is presenting “In Memorium,” a special exhibition of Young’s art, through May 30, 2010.