Purvis Young – A Cult Self-Taught Artist from Miami

Purvis Young (1943–2010) was a self-taught artist, born in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, FL. He never attended high school and spent almost three years in prison for breaking and entering. He lived on the streets of Miami and created absolutely amazing murals practically out of nothing, using only his inspiration and found materials. Purvis Young was a unique person with a difficult life. However, his interest in art and unique way of painting eventually made him a cult self-taught artist and a true icon of urban contemporary art.

Purvis Young’s works represent a blend of painting and drawing, discarded found objects and collaged elements. Depicting city landscapes, boats, warriors, wild horses, musicians, sports, angels, and various processions, they are inspired by spiritual folklore, American history, art books, and documentaries. Besides, works by Purvis Young address issues of racism, pervasive hypocrisy, daily violence, and the plight of the underprivileged. They are like visual stories telling about the artist’s life in the city, his experiences and observations.

Purvis Young’s paintings, drawings, and collages are in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, The Bass in Miami Beach, the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, and many other museums and institutions across the United States. Young’s works also appear in many exhibitions worldwide. For example, this year, you have a chance to see them exhibited at “PERSONAL STRUCTURES – Identities” at Palazzo Mora in Venice, an exhibition that runs in conjunction with the Venice Biennale 2019.

Purvis Young was, and he still is, a cult self-taught artist. Moreover, he is a legend whose work inspires and influences the younger generation of urban artists from around the world.