The Merton D. Simpson Gallery was pleased to announce its reopening since the passing of its founder Merton D. Simpson with a solo show of major works by African-American artist Purvis Young from the collection of Daniel Aubry. Select African artworks from the famous Merton D. Simpson Gallery collection were also on display, providing fascinating examples of the synergy between African art and Purvis Young’s work. The exhibit entitled Angels: Chained and Unchained was on view from November 7th through January 2, 2014.
Young’s solo exhibit recognizes his importance in the African and African-American art traditions that the Merton Simpson Gallery is famous for championing. As Bruce Webber notes in his New York Times obituary of Merton Simpson (March 14, 2013 )
“Over the course of the ’60s and ’70s Simpson became the most important dealer in the U.S. in this field,” Heinrich C. Schweizer, head of the African and Oceanic art department at Sotheby’s auction house, said on Tuesday. “Worldwide, you could say he was one of the two or three leading dealers, and certainly a powerhouse in the U.S., and this was especially remarkable for an African-American, who began doing this in the time of segregation…..
Mr. Simpson’s work as a painter was largely in the Abstract Expressionist mode. It grew more political after he joined the Spiral group, a collective of black artists founded in 1963 by Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff and others, who met to discuss the role of black artists in the art world and, given the growing civil rights movement, the larger world as well.” Read more…
The Rubell Family Collection in Miami has long championed avant-garde artists of all stripes and nationalities. What distinguishes it from other private museums is that it puts its money where its convictions are. The Rubells only exhibit work they own outright.
Recently the Collection mounted a travelling exhibition called Thirty Americans which featured works by that number of significant African-American artists such as Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems. Among this elite company was Purvis Young. In the group portrait of the artists which opens the exhibition catalogue, Purvis stands out by being the only one seated. Slumped in a wheelchair and surrounded by his much younger peers who chat cheerfully amongst each other, he looks straight into the lens, spent but still defiant– an old warrior fully aware of his impending mortality. Unlike most of his counterparts in the exhibition who came up through academia and sport MFA’s, Purvis came from the school of hard knocks. A few months after the photo was taken he was dead at 67.
© Daniel Aubry
“LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (January 19, 2015) – The Arkansas Arts Center, the state’s [premier] center for visual and performing arts, presents 30 Americans, on view April 10 through June 21, 2015, in the Jeannette Edris Rockefeller and Townsend Wolfe Galleries.
‘This exhibition presents a sweeping survey of artwork by many of the most influential African-American artists of the last four decades,” said Arkansas Arts Center executive director Todd Herman. ‘
30 Americans features work by such early and influential artists as Barkley L. Hendricks, Robert Colescott and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and those of younger and emerging artists, such as Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu and Shinique Smith. Often provocative and challenging, 30 Americans explores what it means to be a contemporary artist through an African-American point of view – whether addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics or history.
Previous institutions that have hosted variations of the exhibition include: the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina (March 19, 2011 – September 4, 2011); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (October 1, 2011 – February 12, 2012); the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (March 16, 2012 – July 15, 2012); the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (June 14, 2013 – September 8, 2013); Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee (October 11, 2013 – January 12, 2014); and the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, Louisiana (February 8, 2014 – June 15, 2014).