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May 1, 2008
White Hot Magazine
Purvis Young at The Gallery Bar NYC
by Afrika Brown

White Hot Magazine<br>
Purvis Young at The Gallery Bar NYC
The Power of Purvis “Protest: Paintings by Purvis Young”
Gallery Bar an exhibition curated by Skot Foreman
May 1 through June 17, 2008

Being born in the south before the civil rights movement, Purvis Young witnessed the ugly visage of injustice first-hand. I was privileged to have an up-front and personal view of his memories when I attended the Gallery Bar’s opening night of Protest featuring the works of this self-taught artist, and visual urban griot. Purvis’ work slaps you into the reality of ghetto life – its plight and its pain. It is raw, disturbing, and emotional. It is uncompromising in its presentation. There is no possible way to view his work and not be moved.

Purvis Young’s passion for his beliefs burst through in his paintings and collages. When walking into the Gallery Bar’s intimate space I was sucked into Purvis’ vision. I saw crude, squiggly brush strokes of black images – masses of people caught in the system. In the debris and wooded boards he took from the streets to express his views about society, I observed the very people that are stuck in between the cogs of the machine that are grinded into the grease that the machine uses to function. Some were faceless; others wore their heartache on their face. The anguish of discontentment was evident on the face of man himself as he spoke in a documentary that played throughout the opening. Etched into his skin were the hardships that inspire him to create and appear consistently in his work. In his eyes was the rage that fueled dozens of pieces of art that were sprawled around, literally swallowing him as he spoke in his studio in Florida where the documentary was filmed. Unfortunately, he is gravely ill and was unable to travel to New York to attend the opening.

The pieces displayed ranges from 1980’s to the mid 90’s. Purvis’ work might appear pleasing to the eye upon first glance, because of the bright beautiful colors he uses, but the closer the eye gets to the work the more the truth of the underbelly of urban life becomes exposed. His style is as gritty and dramatic as the city life he is inspired by. Gangland Warfare, circa 1990’s, is one of first pieces you see as you enter. It is also one of the most powerful and disturbing works in the exhibit. The vision of young men going to their graves made me think of precarious predicament of the youths that live with the reality of poverty who fight and die for street credibility. City Life, circa 1980’s, had primitive and unrefined bodies in motion. Purvis shows the industrial side of the city with trucks and train cars. Rusty nails protrude from the piece and saw dust covers the frame representing the squalid nature of city living. My favorite work displayed was Behind Bars, a collage circa 1995. The images appear flaccid like penises caught in a makeshift cell made of rubber tubing. I saw the future confined and ultimately being decimated as a large percentage of black men are wasting away in the penal system. As a black woman this piece rocked me to the core.

The Gallery Bar, located on 120 Orchard Street, is presenting Protest. The chic décor and chill vibe along with the intoxicating work of Purvis Young’s works on display seemed to make the perfect cocktail. Darrin Rubell, owner of the Gallery Bar, felt that the atmosphere was perfect to bring Purvis Young’s ghetto narratives to New York. “Purvis Young’s exhibit is an important show for Gallery Bar,” Darrin stated during the opening, “especially given the current political climate. Purvis has spent his whole life protesting, which is very apparent in all his work. We as a country, in my opinion, are at an all time low. Between the war, healthcare, and our economy, no one seems to take an active position anymore. Today I hear small cries, but nothing to the magnitude I would expect. It is this very reason, we are proud to show Purvis Young and hope that he can be an inspiration to all of us.”

Overall the exhibit revealed a man that has learned to harness his rage and dedicated his life to creating provocative art with controlled fury. As I walked through the exhibit I thought of pictures and documentaries I saw of the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. I thought of the song We Shall Overcome, which seemed to be a rallying cry for people dedicated to bring about positive change. Looking at Purvis Young’s work made me realize that we as a nation haven’t overcome. As disheartening as that revelation was, the dynamic energy that is shown in his frenzied brushstrokes makes me hope that those who view his work will walk away with a myriad of emotions stirring inside and the desire to change the society for the better.

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Purvis Young at The Gallery Bar NYC

 

News Archive
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July 09, 2010
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PURVIS YOUNG: SOCIAL EXPRESSIONIST by Donald Kuspit
December 01, 2009
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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL
October 24, 2009
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Museum of Fine Arts
December 09, 2008
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Officials honor Overtown art icon Purvis Young
September 09, 2008
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BAC to Restore Purvis Young Mural
August 28, 2008
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Rubell Family Collection Grants Purvis Young Collection to Morehouse College (Permanent Exhibition)
August 27, 2008
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Purvis Young Paintings Donated to Morehouse
The Miami Herald
August 14, 2008
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Morehouse fully embraces works by Purvis Young
By Catherine Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
May 01, 2008
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Purvis Young: Protest by Joel Withrow
March 08, 2008
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Biscayne Times: Artistic Genius Meets Artful Dodger
March 22, 2007
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Daily Business Review article
by Julie Kay

November 26, 2006
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New York Times Article
Art? In This Neighborhood?
November 13, 2006
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Biscayne Boulevard Times Review
Purvis Young: Paintings from the Street
Picasso of the Ghetto Paints Life in Overtown
October 27, 2006
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Sun Sentinel Review
Found objects, found himself
Purvis Young retrospective shows a life of art made in protest and passion.
October 08, 2006
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Palm Beach Post Review
Street Smart: Purvis Young
October 01, 2006
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September 21, 2006
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ArtNexus.com - Press Release:
Boca Raton Museum of Art Announces Fall Exhibitions
September 05, 2006
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Ocean Drive, September '06 issue
Essentials du Moment
September 05, 2006
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ArtNet News: PURVIS YOUNG ON FILM
November 06, 2005
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Tampa Museum of Art Receives Purvis Young Paintings
June 01, 2005
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Savannah NOW, June 1, 2005, review
May 29, 2005
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Everything's a canvas for self-taught artist
April 20, 2005
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Connect Savannah, April 20, 2005, review by Bertha Husband
April 20, 2005
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A Fine Dividing Line: Purvis Young & Manuel Diaz@the Hurn Museum
March 14, 2003
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Forever Young: a self-taught colorist shows expressionistic energy
January 01, 2003
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Art in America, January 2003, review by Paula Harper
August 01, 2001
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Review by Ann Klefstad
July 01, 2000
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American Art: Smithsonian American Art Museum
review by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan
June 01, 2000
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Volvo Advertisment featuring mural by Purvis Young
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For more information about Purvis Young, please visit SkotForeman.com

Representing paintings, drawings and sculpture by the late Urban Expressionist artist Purvis Young.

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