Purvis Young

The evolution of Overtown's unassuming art star

Eye Over the City (about 1991) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

The visual perceptions of Purvis Young, a prolific self-taught artist, reveal a vocabulary of symbolic and narrative images steeped in the unrest and celebration of Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Truck Off Loadin' (about 1991) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

Inspired by muralists, Purvis saw that he didn't need oil and canvas to realize his dream of being an artist. Using house paint on collected wood scraps, cardboard, and more, to develop his oeuvre.

Ritual Processional (about 1985-1999) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

Purvis painted for his neighbors without expectation of outside recognition. He would often swap a painting for money to pay his electric bill. Today, a painting like this would currently be valued around $12,000.

City Life (about 1993) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

As a life resident of Overtown, Purvis’s view has remained the same for years. When he paints what he sees, he depicts soaring interstate highway overpasses, poverty, protests, struggle and violence.

Angels Keep Watch (circa 1985-1999) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

However, Purvis also paints what he would like to see in the world: wild horses, rescuing boats, trains taking people to far-off destinations, saints,

and hovering angels.

Angels Over the City (about 1998) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

The large heads that float above his crowds stand for the “good people,” the “angels” that Young identifies with, who bring hope. In his paintings they come to Earth to help guide its citizens.

Sage: Top of World (about 1994) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

Young transforms the detritus of our throw-away society into compelling artworks. Interestingly, the Angels that come to Earth are often shown gathering garbage and cleaning neighborhoods of debris.

Scraps of carpet make up the bottom portion of this frame.

Funeral Procession (about 1992) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

Despite being focused on his Overtown neighborhood in Miami, Purvis’s paintings resonate with art lovers in New York, Chicago, Paris, and Cologne, just a few places where his work has been exhibited.

Dancers and Loas (circa 1985-1999) by Purvis YoungBoca Raton Museum of Art

Purvis famously said, "For so many years, people have been calling me all different kinds of names to describe me as an artist: outsider, black artist, ghetto artist, the Picasso of the Ghetto. I just want to be called an artist. That’s all I’ve been doing all my life is painting.”

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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