Postcards from a timeless place where you can never go,
dashed off by a traveler who makes his home there…
The rider. The truck. The pregnant belly, the "big joint". Horses, crowds.
The elegant mark, the rough support. Electric yellow, creamy rose.
The work of the urban black vernacular artist, Purvis Young, has roots in the dreamy fields of high art subject matter-evoking Picasso in its riders, its elegant horses, its nudes. At the same time it is filled with the energy and syncretism of the world's vanguard-American urban Black culture. It is to "outsider art" what bebop is to the blues. The subject matter rides on a thick layer of color, attention, choice, free-swinging composition that refers to a thousand years of composition before it.
This work is anything but naïve.
Young lives and works in Overtown, a neighborhood in Miami cut off by the highway overpasses that loom over it. He's of the community, but is also, now, of the larger artworld as well. He has researched art history avidly seen what other artists have done, spending years in the libraries that have supported his work. He has chosen his imagery out of Overtown and his own life, and out of the resonances of the past as well.
Young's choices of materials-the discarded boards he uses to paint on and to "frame" works; the fragments of text, the use of books to mount the works-are not made by happenstance, though early on they may have been the fruit of necessity. Now these are elements of meaning. Now they insist on the presence of the street, full of stuff, humanity, words, scraps; full of the exchanges that create the most exciting cultural milieu in the world, creative, tragic, excessive, beautiful, wasteful.
The works selected here are small, sketchy, and vivid. Their subjects are common ones in Young's oeuvre. Immediacy, easy mastery of the irregular field, elegant drawing, are all virtues they share. They are like letters, postcards from a timeless place where you can never go, dashed off by a traveler who makes his home there.
- Ann Klefstad