Written by Contemporary Global Art Curator, Ludlow E. Bailey
- Purvis Young is a deeply grown African American soul whose prolific and legendary work continues to capture the imagination of the American public and the art world in general. His contribution to American art is immeasurable.
- Doug McCraw, founder of Ft. Lauderdale’s highly celebrated FAT Village is considered to be one the world’s leading experts on the art of Purvis Young. In honor of Mr. Young’s legacy, Mr. McCraw has chosen to produce a Purvis Young show to launch his 2021 South Florida Art Basel season.
As the curator for this show, I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to add to the legacy of Purvis Young. I knew Purvis over 25 years and had the good fortune of including his work in several of my South Florida art shows.
Purvis Young: An iconic African American Visionary will open November 18, 2021 and will be available to the general public through January 30, 2022 at Fat Village in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
This collection of Purvis Young’s work is sufficiently diverse and represents in some ways a holistic overview of his thematic focus. The work is quintessentially Purvis. Black life in the inner city, angels, horses, Jesus, pregnant women, mass incarceration, boat people, the transatlantic slave voyage, sharks, Holy men, protesters, halos, Overtown, the ghetto, crowded streets, people in praise and dispossessed folk.
The value of this collection lies in the subconscious spiritual power that illuminates the soul of a man who was not influenced by his peers, but driven by a spiritual calling to use his artistry and angelic vision to make evident the deeply flawed underbelly of the socio-political infrastructure of contemporary American life. His signature artistic style is “original” and recognizable from any point of view in the universe.
Purvis died broke. His life story in some ways, is an American tragedy, but it is also an inspiring story about the role of art in the pursuit of Freedom, a life of value and the mastery of destiny. The discovery of art changed his perspective and gave him an outlet to express his soul’s mission and purpose.
Purvis Young obviously lived his life according to the beat of his own drum. He was an authentic American original artist. Purvis was not a “black man” of his time. His attire was uniquely his own. There was nothing conventional about him. He was his own man. He never married. He did not own a fancy car. He rode a bicycle.
Whenever I was in his presence, I always felt that I was in the presence of an Ethiopian High priest, a Shango man, a Freedom fighter or a Zulu spiritual warrior. Purvis Young always talked to me about himself as a Zulu warrior. As a descendant of Africa, he was most definitely aware of his African roots. He drew major inspiration from the Congo drums. He was also knowledgeable about Yoruba African spirituality. One of his closest and best confidantes, Silo Crespo, was an Afro-Cuban Santeria Priest.
In all my interactions with Purvis, I think what inspired me most was the sense that he had a unique access to a divine fountain of spiritual resources that drove him to pursue his calling tirelessly. Purvis Young was an artist on a mission. He did not want to die with the music in him.
On the highest spiritual level, Purvis Young was a rare and beautiful soul who emerged from a troubled childhood to become one of America’s leading visual artists. His decision to be an artist was a spiritual calling. In many conversations with Purvis, I realized that he was not very interested in capitalism, money, status nor power. At the end of the day, Purvis was a civil rights activist, urban historian and a contemporary African American Griot who used art as a platform to highlight the challenges of African American urban life and the deep injustices suffered by black people in the US.
By: Ludlow E. Bailey
Images used with the full permission of Ludlow E. Bailey and CADA (Contemporary African Diaspora Art)