1943 - 2010
Purvis Young was born in Liberty City, Miami, on February 2, 1943. His uncle introduced him to drawing as a young boy but he lost interest. He never attended high school. He spent three years in Florida’s Raiford State Penitentiary for breaking and entering when he was a teenager. He started to draw while he was in jail. According to Young, an angel had spoken to him in prison and told him to create.

He moved to Overtown after his release from prison. In the 1970s Purvis was influenced by photographs of murals he had seen such as, the Wall of Respect mural in Chicago and the Freedom Wall in Detroit, as well as from the civil rights and Vietnam protests of the sixties, and the Black Arts Movement. He nailed hundreds of paintings to the sides of the boarded up buildings that formed the Good Bread Alley, which was named after the Jamaican bakeries that once occupied the street.

Many of the paintings are on materials and other debris he found throughout Overtown. From chunks of plywood and other construction materials, Young would fashion frames for his paintings. Recurring themes in his work were horses, angels, and urban landscapes. Through his works he expressed social and racial issues, and served as an outspoken activist about politics and bureaucracy Young said in an interview reprinted in his New York Times obituary “What I say is the world is getting worser; guys pushing buggies, street people not having no jobs here in Miami, drugs kill the young, and church people riding around in luxury cars.”

In 2006 a feature documentary entitled Purvis of Overtown was produced about his life and work. His work is found in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others.


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Man In Black Hat     Purvis Young Angel and Horses     Horse and Rider     Horses and Warriors

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