Works on Paper
Purvis Young (American, 1943–2010) lived most of his adult life in Overtown, a neighborhood in Miami, where his art flourished and continues to be celebrated. Young, an observer and unofficial historian of Overtown, recorded and portrayed the everyday lives, stories, woes and systemic traumas of the Black experience of which he was a part and a witness. He drew inspiration directly from his community, personal relationships, local television, public radio and the library, which he frequented. As he expressed in a 2005 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, “I paint the problems of the world.” The materials he used, such as wood scraps, paper, Masonite, plywood and found books—like his subject matter—were collected from his neighborhood and nearby construction sites.
Young’s artistic career began in the late 1960s after he spent a brief period in prison, during which he learned about and was inspired by murals in Chicago and Detroit, such as the 1967 Chicago mural Wall of Respect, painted by the Visual Arts workshop of the Organization of Black American Culture. His first major work, in the spirit of a mural, was located from 12th to 14th Streets between 3rd and 4th Avenues in Overtown, named Good Bread Alley after the smell of freshly baked bread in the area. Beginning around 1971, Young attached large painted panels to dilapidated and abandoned buildings in Good Bread Alley in protest of the impending demolition of what was considered the heart of Overtown for the construction of interstate highway 95, which displaced about 10,000 residents and 40 blocks of the main business district. This project brought Young wide recognition and several other mural commissions that can still be viewed at the Culmer/Overtown Library (1984), Northside Metrorail Station (1986) and an overpass wall at NW 11th Street and NW 3rd Avenue (2010).
While public works remain a large part of Young’s legacy, Purvis Young: Works on Paper offers an intimate glimpse at the work Young produced using paper, a material frequently employed in his oeuvre of more than 3,000 artworks. This exhibition celebrates the recent acquisition of these pieces from the Daniel Aubry Collection.
Get a closer look
Opening Reception: Purvis Young: Works on Paper
Friday, June 30, 2023, 5–8 p.m., Intuit