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Purvis Young (1943 - 2010)


Purvis Young (1943 - 2010)

Purvis Young is among the most important self-taught artists to have emerged from the Outsider Art movement. Young transcended the labels of “Outsider” and “Self Taught” and is today considered one of the forefathers of Street Art.  His work is collected by over 60 museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and shown at influential art fairs around the world.  He was born in Miami’s Liberty City and grew up on the streets of Overtown.  Encouraged and influenced by his Bahamian uncle, Young began creating art as a child, but at age 18, life in the ghetto took a wrong turn and caught up with Purvis when he was arrested for breaking and entering and sentenced to 4 years in the State Prison at Raiford.  Upon his rehabilitation and subsequent release, he began selling his works of art as a means of survival.


Purvis Young created art from a gut instinct, using materials found from the streets of Miami’s inner city.  The resulting work constitutes some of the most powerful and honest art of the last thirty years.  Young’s work expresses his heartfelt concern for his community’s roots and lifelong friends.  Protests in the street, pregnant women populating the neighborhood, the hustle, bustle and chaos in the street, the infusion of boat people, the trucks passing above on the elevated interstate, funerals, celebrations, wars, soldiers and Blues music men populate his oeuvre.


Not only are his images drawn from these streets, but the materials he used are derived from them as well.  Purvis Young collected old books, discarded wood, menus, carpet, doors and cardboard to incorporate into and create his art.  The worn refuse has an emotional energy that reinforces the themes of his work.  His painterly style, coupled with sweeping brushstrokes, lend an aura of tumult and an energy and passion to his work. Despite or perhaps because of his rudimentary scholastic art training, Purvis Young’s work is fueled by his emotions, combining the power, struggle, anguish, spirit and passion of his city.  The resulting art speaks with such force and directness that Purvis Young’s appeal transcends the world of Self-Taught, propelling his works to the highest levels of the Contemporary Art world.



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