The Historic Lyric Theater Keeps It Local, Debuts Purvis Young Exhibition

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Amidst the Basel craze where out-of-towners look admiringly at works by artists from across the globe, the Historic Lyric Theater in Overtown is keeping it local. The recently renovated landmark debuted "A Man Among the People: Purvis Young," a retrospective celebrating the life and work of the Overtown native and respected outsider artist.

The exhibition is a bit of a homecoming for Young, who passed away in 2010. His work drew heavily on the distinctive landscape of Overtown, incorporating architectural detritus and litter from the area. Though his paintings were largely abstract, they captured the often difficult lives of the neighborhood's residents. In Young's world, drug addicts, prostitutes and the struggling families are depicted with a difficult honesty.

Founder of the Black Archives, Dorothy Fields, remembers Young from her high school days. "We used to laugh at him," she told WLRN, "seeing this guy painting on the wall."

And Young painted on nearly any surface that could serve as a canvas, more often than not, the artifacts of Overtown -- doors, abandoned buildings, anything that was flat and available. The Historic Lyric Theater's exhibition highlights Young's intimate relationship with the neighborhood where he was born and died.

Young's return to Overtown is important. During his life, Young's work never really found a home in his neighborhood rather, like most outsider art, it was gobbled up by wealthy, white collectors -- recognizable names like Jane Fonda and Dan Aykroyd. And Young's work has long been divorced from the physical location that was the source of his creativity.

But Fields hopes that the exhibition will foster a new appreciation of Young within his own community: "It's important that community people come and see the success of what from this community," she said. "From the streets of the community have come our own Rembrandt."

"A Man Among the People: A Purvis Homecoming," is on view December 3-7, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM at The Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Complex. 819 NW 2nd Ave., Miami

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