Purvis Young never attended high school, was often called an outsider artist or a street artist, and he lived a life that only intermittently surfaced on the art-world grid. But he was influenced by a number of artists – including Rembrandt, El Greco, van Gogh and Delacroix – whose works he pored over in art books in the public library.
Painted or drawn in ink on found materials as diverse as cardboard, discarded doors, orange crates, telephone bills, printed book pages and manila folders, Young’s work often concerned itself with cacophonous, urgent representations of urban strife. He lived most of his life in the Overtown section of Miami, a once-thriving community that was ravaged by the construction of an interstate highway through it in the 1960s, and he painted what he saw around him.
He often painted images of trucks, trains and railroad tracks to suggest possibilities of escape and methods of connection between the inner city and the outer world. Indeed, there is a storytelling aspect to his paintings; they resonate with the consequences of racism, the plight of the underprivileged, the atmosphere of daily violence, the world’s pervasive hypocrisy.1
1 Bruce Weber, The New York Times (Arts section, April 24, 2010)