Self-Taught Artist Featured at Paul R. Jones Museum

The Paul R. Jones Museum presents Purvis Young: Born in Liberty City, September 6 through October 25, 2019, in downtown Tuscaloosa. The exhibition of 27 pieces by the self-taught artist has been selected entirely from the Seiler Zaden Rimes Collection, with the assistance of UA alumnus Richard Zaden. The public is invited to a First Friday reception, September 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Purvis Young by David Raccuglia, Wikimedia Commons.
Purvis Young taken by David Raccuglia, Wikimedia Commons

Purvis Young (1943-2010) was born in Liberty City, Florida, and spent most of his artistic life in Overtown, both historically black neighborhoods now in the Miami metro area. Through intensely personal iconography and a relentless output, Young conveyed life in Overtown with a perceptive eye, exposing the struggling aspects of living in an impoverished, forgotten town within a bustling city. With glass skyscrapers of Miami in the background, he painted his version of justice-themed issues, often expressing his thoughts and feelings about current events happening around him onto discarded wood and objects.

“Young believed in social justice,” said museum director Daniel White, “and that theme is in line with who we are at the Jones Museum and our mission, so Purvis Young is a natural pairing for us. What distinguishes this artist and his work is, while the vast output is typical of a self-taught artist, there is an evolution to his work over the decades. It changes, it expands and all the while stays within Young’s personal view of the world around him. He could be moved, and he responded to events in a way that is unusual for an outsider artist. With this show, we hope to convey this evolution and bring Young’s unique portrayal of life and a painted world visually all his own to our audience.”

Independent curator Paul Barrett, who previously curated A Harder Task Than Making Bricks Without Straw: Self-Taught Alabama Artists from the Collection of Doug McCraw at The University of Alabama Gallery and Beverly Buchanan: Habitat for Humanity at the Paul R. Jones Museum, chose work for this exhibit that exemplifies the breadth and depth of Young’s ability. Works painted on a variety of found objects were executed on plywood, paper, and even a tabletop and shelf, and feature motifs Young used throughout his life: large angelic oval heads, horses, buildings, boats, and animated figures. Barrett states, “Purvis Young’s status as a major artistic talent has been reinforced by his recent solo shows at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami and the Palazzo Mora during the current Venice Biennale, as well as major group exhibitions such as History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Third Space: Shifting Conversations About Contemporary Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. I’m delighted to collaborate with the Paul R. Jones Museum to bring artists of this caliber to Tuscaloosa.”

The museum’s curator and collections manager, Emily Bibb, said, “We undertook this exhibition with the help of guest curator Paul Barrett both to highlight the work of Purvis Young and to have the work of a renowned self-taught artist in the museum during the Kentuck Festival of the Arts in Northport, which will be happening within the time the show will be up.”

Front view of the Paul R. Jones Museum, 6th Street, TuscaloosaAlthough the Jones Collection does not hold works by Purvis Young, he is an artist that Bibb believes the late Paul R. Jones might have collected, because of Jones’ selection of artists who work in a similar vein, such as Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Lonnie Holley. “We’re very excited to highlight this artist,” said Bibb, “to showcase art that hasn’t previously been exhibited in Tuscaloosa, and we’re grateful for Mr. Zaden’s generosity for this loan of work by Young.”

The Paul R. Jones Museum is located at 2308 Sixth Street, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35401. Hours are Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and First Friday of each month, 12 noon until 8:00 p.m. For more information about this exhibition and all our programs, call 205-345-3038 or go to the website: