Purvis YOUNG: Honey in the Sky
January 11 – July 13, 2024
In an effort to “solve how every man could get along,” the late, great African-American and “self-taught” painter Purvis Young once equated his artistic practice to putting “honey in the sky – where it could drip down and make the world sweet.” This is the largest solo survey exhibition of Purvis Young’s paintings ever presented in Southwest Florida and features more than seventy-five original artworks spanning four decades of the artist’s prolific career.
Purvis Young was born in Liberty City, Miami, on February 2, 1943 and died in 2010. His grandparents had immigrated to Florida by boat from the Bahamas and settled in Overtown. As a child, Young spent time with his uncle, a well-known local sign painter, who introduced him to drawing and painting. Purvis Young had a very limited formal education and did not complete high school. At the age of 18, he was sentenced to three years (1961–64) in prison at North Florida’s Raiford State Penitentiary for breaking and entering. While incarcerated, Young realized a life of crime was not for him and decided to dedicate himself to making art – drawing and studying art books. Once released, he returned to Overtown and by 1971 began living on a vacant street known as Goodbread Alley, after the Jamaican bakeries that once occupied it.
An avid consumer of public television, National Public Radio (NPR) and books found at the Miami-Dade Public Library, the artist became deeply concerned with the history of oppression and plight of the underprivileged. Depicting the systemic and recurring racial, social and economic struggles within his community, Purvis Young connected past with present – addressing themes and commenting on the African-American experience. Like our Gallery namesake, Bob Rauschenberg, repurposing found materials while walking once (or sometimes twice) around his city block to assemble his combines, Purvis Young was an “urban expressionist” who transformed discarded plywood, cardboard, carpet and other detritus into compelling works of art. Widely shown and critically-acclaimed, Purvis Young’s works are now in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, American Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and many other prestigious institutions.
Organized in partnership with our friends at the Florida Gulf Coast University Art Galleries and with significant additional loans from the Monroe Family Collection, this immersive retrospective celebrates the enduring legacy of Purvis Young’s art, influence and long-lasting cultural impact.
Additional announcements will follow in coming weeks and months as lectures, performances and special events are confirmed in conjunction with the exhibition.
Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at FSW
The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery was founded as The Gallery of Fine Art in 1979 on the Lee County campus of Florida Southwestern State College/FSW (then Edison Community College). On June 4th 2004 the Gallery of Fine Art was renamed the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, to honor and commemorate our longtime association and friendship with the artist. Over more than three decades until his death, the Gallery worked closely with Rauschenberg to present world premiere exhibitions including multiple installations of the ¼ Mile or Two Furlong Piece. The artist insisted on naming the space the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (versus the “Robert Rauschenberg Gallery”) as it was consistent with the intimate, informal relationship he maintained with both our local Southwest Florida community and FSW.