Purvis Young

December 3, 2018 – June 29, 2019

I paint the world’s problems.

When the world quiets down I’ll quiet down.

Upset with the injustices he witnessed daily, and emboldened by civil rights activists, anti-war protesters and art activists, Purvis Young (American,1943-2010) began, in the early 1970s, to create his own form of protest: a large-scale mural composed of paintings on found scraps of wood and metal that he nailed to a stretch of abandoned buildings spanning a city block near downtown Miami. The charged images he painted confronted the actual world around him –there were prisoners, immigrants on boats seeking better lives, protesters, soldiers locked in combat. Current and historical events, imparted via public libraries, public television and public radio, consumed Young who connected events of the past with those of the present. But some images also told of a world unique to Young: angels circulating among people, wild horses clustered between buildings, and giant, menacing eyes looming over it all.

From these initial paintings Young developed a visual lexicon that he expanded upon for the rest of his life, creating thousands of paintings, drawings, and artists’ books. Championed early on by several of Miami’s librarians, curators, and independent arts patrons, Young’s works were included in exhibitions and commissions in Miami’s public spaces beginning in 1976.

This exhibition is comprised of a selection of works painted between 1980 and early 1999, when the Rubell family visited Young’s studio and acquired 3,348 paintings and hundreds of works on paper. Also included are several paintings recently donated to the Rubell Family Collection in memory of Janet Fleisher. Organized thematically, this survey presents the cycle of life observed by Young in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, from birth to death and the cosmos.

A comprehensive, 364 page, hardcover catalog with 254 color plates accompanies the exhibition and includes an interview with Young by Hans Ulrich Obrist, recorded in 2005, and writings by Rashid Johnson, Gean Moreno, Franklin Sirmans, César Trasobares, and Barbara N. Young. The catalog is available at our online bookstore.


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