Purvis Young, American, 1943 - 2010. Big Smiling Head in Landscape with People, 1980's. Mixed media on found wood panel, 24 7/8 x 21 7/8 x 2 in. (63.2 x 55.6 x 5.1 cm). Gift of Selig D. Sacks 2019.313. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Found Objects: The Art of Purvis Young

January 16, 2021 - April 11, 2021

Graphics Gallery

At first glance, what looks like chaotic and abstract brushstrokes and pencil marks are actually meaningful images­—all part of Purvis Young’s rich visual lexicon. Boats, horses, warriors, and prisoners fill his canvases (wood panels, discarded receipts, and pages ripped from books)exploring themes of both freedom and imprisonment. Although he was considered the unofficial historian of his neighborhood of Overtown, Miami, the themes in his work are universal to the Black experience. Young’s paintings and drawings became his voice of protest for the injustices he and his community experienced. On his bicycle, he circled his neighborhood, gathering materials, supplies, and inspiration for his works. In 1964, while serving three years in prison for breaking and entering, Young studied art books and pored over Old Masters such as Rembrandt and El Greco. It was during this period that he experienced a shift in consciousness in which he realized that he could use his art to express himself and his grievances with the world. After his release and move to Miami’s neighborhood of Overtown, he began painting and never stopped until his death in 2010. 

Sponsored by

Founders Society

From the Exhibition

  • Purvis Young, American, 1943 - 2010. Untitled, n.d. Ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6 cm). Gift of Dr. Sharon A. Simeon 2020.41. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

  • Purvis Young, American, 1943 - 2010. Horses and Equestrians, 1980s. Mixed media on found wood panel, 17 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. (44.5 x 90.8 cm). Gift of Selig D. Sacks 2019.319. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

  • Purvis Young, American, 1943 – 2010. Untitled, 1980s. Marker on paper, 10 5/8 x 11 3/4 in. (27 x 29.8 cm). Gift of Selig D. Sacks 2019.295. © Larry T. Clemons / Gallery 721 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York