Self-taught Overtown artist Purvis Young used little more than found objects and paint to craft his works, renowned for their rare ability to capture both hope and despair in the midst of urban strife and upheaval.
Finding patrons and fans like Bernard Davis (owner of the now-defunct Miami Museum of Modern Art), Lenny Kravitz, and Dan Aykroyd, among others, Young made an indelible mark on the city's artistic evolution.
Now, in honor of Black History Month, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami is launching a new exhibition: "Under the Bridge, Beyond the Beach and Above the Muck: The Art of Purvis Young." MOCA will kick off the display with a reception today.
Young, who died in 2010, earned international recognition. His notable admirers and collectors have included Kravitz, John Belushi, and major museums. The list also includes former Miami-Dade County commissioner and philanthropist Ruth Shack and her husband, Richard. Indeed, it's Ruth's generosity that helped make the exhibition possible.
"The exhibition emerges from gifts of works by Purvis Young donated to MOCA by Mrs. Ruth Shack in memory of Richard Shack and an earlier by the Katzman Family," says MOCA's director, Babacar M'Bow.
"These constitute MOCA's 'Young' collection. In addition to these, private collectors have loaned their collections to MOCA allowing us to present an exhibition of about 80 works by the renowned Miami artist."
Young's works have helped the city rise to a new level of artistic influence, says M'Bow.
"Purvis has moved beyond racial categorizing to embody the aesthetic spirit of Miami," he explains. "While rooted in the African-American experience, his life and work provided Miami with a powerful indigenous artistic discourse demonstrating the capacity of the city to nurture and support one of its own.
"As the 'contemporary' seems to have lost its energy due to old age, Purvis' importance, grounded in 20th-century dynamics, contributed to ushering the city's preeminence as a 21st-century global cultural center. We are all better off because of his struggle to stay human in the face of dehumanizing processes."
The reception will run Thursday, February 12, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for MOCA members. The exhibition will be on display through March 12.
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