Hampton Art Lovers Presents
"Purvis Young : Manchild in the Promised Land"
January 26, 2022 - March 6, 2022
Hampton Art Lovers presents an exclusive collection of Purvis Young (1943-2010). Young is the most renowned visual artist from Florida, his work is grounded in the experiences of an African-American man seeking Freedom in his "Promised Land" within a Black aesthetic of Historic Overtown. Purvis was a visual folklorist, and an outsider to the art world. He was prolific and criticized for painting too much. In his own words: "they don't say that birds fly too much, Shakespeare wrote too much or opera singers sing too much - But it don't bother me".
Realized on found and often distressed abandoned objects, doors, pieces of cardboard and wood. Young’s works are populated by a recurring set of motifs which include angels and ancestors, refugees and prisoners, pregnant women and protesters, soldiers and workers, construction sites, trucks, horses; all drawn from his immediate environment and from the aspirations and histories of those around him. Purvis depicted a visual story of his neighborhood, Overtown, illustrating a range of issues from injustice to immigration, and every day situations.
"Manchild in the Promised Land" is a reference to the definitive account of African-American youth in Harlem of the 1940s and 1950s, and a seminal work of modern literature. Written by Claude Brown, this 1965 autobiography chronicles the author's coming-of-age story amidst poverty and violence in Harlem. Like Brown, Purvis provides a visual guided tour of his Harlem: the children, young people, hardworking parents; the hustlers, the saints, the police; the violence and humor.
Through his body of work, Purvis Young built an expressive record and a political commentary on life in his Promised Land. This exbibition focuses on his persistent themes of Sages and Saints, Nautical Freedom, Zulu Freedom Fighters, and Citiscapes. Purvis worked in the abstract but he was inspired deeply by the social realism of AfriCOBRA's 1967 "Wall of Respect" mural in Chicago. Purvis fame began with his Good bread Alley public works project in 1971, his murals can still be found in Overtown today. The most recent was painted in 2010 on the overpass wall at NW 3rd Avenue depicting wild horses, angels and city buildings. Another, painted in 1984, is found on the wall of the Culmer/Overtown Public Library branch at NW 13th Street near Gibson Park.
Young’s works are held in the collections of the Miami-Dade Public Library System; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; American Folk Art Museum, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and de Young Museum of Art, San Francisco and Hampton University Museum among others. His work has recently been featured in major exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Rubell Family Collection, Miami, and was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2019.