June 18, 2022 – June 30, 2024
Inspired by the success of the exhibition Purvis Young: 91 in 2019, the Tampa Museum of Art will remount its Purvis Young collection as one of the first of several long-term displays of the permanent collection. Young’s paintings reflect his observations of daily life and the fight for social justice, hope for his community, immigration and otherness, as well as the fragile balance between life and death.
Purvis Young: Redux is one of several exhibitions on view between 2022-2024, highlighting the Tampa Museum of Art’s permanent collection focused on ancient art and modern and contemporary art.
Purvis Young: Redux is presented in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
About the Purvis Young collection at the Tampa Museum of Art
In 2004, the Rubell Family Foundation gifted 91 artworks to the Tampa Museum of Art by self-taught artist Purvis Young (American, 1943-2010). The selection of assemblage paintings represents a snapshot of Young’s prolific artistic production. Based in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, Florida, Young created an impressive body of work that numbered in the thousands. He rendered his work from found objects—items he discovered in his neighborhood. Discarded wood, windows, furniture fragments, cabinets, doors, carpet, fabric, string, and cables motivated Young to make art, and he built his compositions with various forms and textures. He constructed his palette—fiery reds, golden yellow, forest green, navy blue, hot pink—from everyday household paints. Although his means were limited, Young was recognized throughout Miami for his remarkable painting practice and his contributions to the cultural landscape of South Florida.
About Purvis Young
Born in 1943 in Miami, Florida, Purvis Young’s mother encouraged her son’s artistic talents. His grandparents immigrated to Miami by boat from the Bahamas and settled in Overtown. Although he did not complete high school, Young educated himself as an adult by watching documentaries and reading. He spent hours at the Miami-Dade Public Library, and books became an important part of his life and work.
As a child, Young enjoyed drawing, however, it wasn’t until adulthood that he embraced painting. He spent hours looking at books filled with imagery by El Greco, Rembrandt, Paul Gaugin, and Vincent van Gogh. In the early 1970s, Young began painting regularly, and he created a visual language reflective of life in Overtown. Although adversity was constant, Young’s neighborhood inspired him, and he strove to paint positive imagery. Angels with halos dominated his work and represented the good he admired in people. He revered pregnant women and holy men and painted this imagery in a range of configurations. While he supported his community, he also acknowledged its struggles.
Young created his magnum opus early in his career. For a short period of time in the 1970s, Young installed his paintings from the ground to the rooftops of abandoned storefronts in his neighborhood. The Wall of Respect in Chicago, a mural that featured heroic black men and women painted at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s, influenced Young. He aimed to replicate the Wall of Respect in Overtown with his powerful, provocative paintings and often overlapped the paintings in an extreme salon-style hang. Titled Goodbread Alley Mural, the project was on view from approximately 1971-74 until the City of Miami started to dismantle the artwork. The installation on view at the Tampa Museum of Art takes inspiration from the Goodbread Alley Mural and features the entirety of the Museum’s Purvis Young collection.
In the late 1990s, Don and Mera Rubell, art collectors based in Miami, befriended the artist and acquired the contents of Young’s studio. In total, they transferred over 3,300 works from his studio to their art warehouse. Since then, they have donated nearly 500 works by Purvis Young to museums and universities across the country. Young died in 2010, and today his work resides in private and public collections across the globe.