Burgess Modern + Contemporary is proud to showcase work by Miami Artist, Purvis Young at Art Miami 2021, along with Jedd Novatt, Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, David Salle, Tom Wesselmann, Roberto Matta, Miss Bugs, and Gabriel Delgado; among others. Burgess Modern + Contemporary will be at booth #AM333.
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, Miami.
Young, a Black American born in Florida, lived through Miami’s 1960s race riots, was personally affected by the Civil Rights Movement, and the embodiments of the Black Power struggle. As an artist and as a citizen, he along with others in Miami, had major grievances, including deplorable housing conditions, economic exploitations, bleak employment prospects, racial discriminations, and poor police-community relations. Young was an artist living in a nation of unrest. He saw daily inequalities against the minority populations in the greater Miami area, as well as the nation. Young witnessed his Overtown, Florida neighborhood transform from a thriving community of black-owned businesses to a deteriorated economic blunder, courtesy of unfair wealth distribution attempts, and a misguided transportation and highway infrastructure. These problems, along with other municipal influences, lead to what he saw as inescapable inner-city deterioration. Heavily influenced by such deplorable circumstances, Young’s artwork, none the less, cuddled and caressed the destructive fodder and drew inspiration from the jaundiced viciousness. Protests, riots, unwed pregnant ladies, jail scenes, immigrants, angels, and Saints all play pivotal roles in Young’s visual portrayals of his immediate surroundings.
“When I started with the figure painting, I liked to show good peoples, the heroes, like that. They fight for a cause. They done good things, they helped the struggle, you know. They are not necessarily just black peoples. I got good white peoples in my paintings… A lot of Quakers, jeopardizing their life, lost their lives trying to help black people against slavery.” – P. Young
Primitive renditions of people on horses, marchers, and troopers are on the move, aligning and pushing left. Our mind’s eye makes out the metaphysical struggles of a people, of poverty, and systematic strain. A painting mostly of monochromatic earth tones is accented by black and red markings. Young conceptually illustrates the sacrifices of a culture, where impoverishment demands retributions and justice. Red for blood, red for death and murder, red for the people. Black silhouettes give rise to otherworldly phantasms, heroes of the past that still provide voice to the needs of their people…The wants and demands for access to the necessities of life. An urban hieroglyphic narrative, “Warriors Together” pushes past the coded symbols that recount the past lives. They invite us, the viewer, to join in their cause. Personalized artifacts of discarded boards and wood form a frame around the painting. The people’s spirit is physically housed in their urban identity, real sculptural relics of the domains in which they guard, fight for, and raise families.
“Free Them, Now” from the 1980’s is a powerful painting commemorating those who have been imprisoned and a celebration of the fight for justice. Five tiers of prisoners scramble to call out for reform, clinging and clanging at their bars. We can almost hear their hymns. A haloed head of a figure on the right dominates the composition. A leader in a gold adornment, he sings out in feverish pitch. Such a simple painting transverses across generations. Poignant now for the unrelenting existences of racism in our privatized prison culture, it also resonates an unmistakable homage from slavery to Apartheid to mass incarcerations. Free them now, the demons of our previous mistakes, so that we might learn to move forward.
Part Urban Shaman, part Inner-City Graphic Archivist, Young’s influence in artistically documenting the plight of the African American and minority populations of the nation is undeniable. His work is held in over 60 museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.
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