Purvis Young (1943–2010) was part of a younger generation of Black artists in the South. Inspired by the cultural activism of the 1960s and the art of Rembrandt and El Greco, he created a monumental work of street art in Overtown, Miami, by affixing hundreds of painted panels to the wall of an abandoned alley. The alley was called Goodbread, in reference to a bakery that had once been there. It was a casualty of so-called urban renewal, the practice of decimating Black and Hispanic neighborhoods under cover of eminent-domain laws in order to make way for highways, stadiums, and the like. In addition to his paintings and drawings on panel, Young created books, like this one, which the Morgan acquired from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. It is a found book that he covered over and filled with his own drawings—an act of reclamation. Called Sometimes I Get Emotion from the Game (early 1980s), the book is an ode to the basketball and football players of Overtown. Over more than a hundred spreads, Young’s players, some rendered in ballpoint pen, others in marker, some dressed in numbered jerseys, some bare chested, transform the found sheets on which they are drawn into ecstatic illuminations. As the book's title and imagery suggest, Young viewed sports as a space of freedom and release from the oppressive conditions that governed the lives of young Black men. "My feeling was the world might get better if I put up my protests. Even if it didn't, it was just something I had to be doing," he said.
Plan your visit. 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016.