Les Nabis & Purvis Young “Prophets & Angels”

Shin Gallery (66-68 Orchard St.)

poster for Les Nabis & Purvis Young  “Prophets & Angels”

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SHIN GALLERY presents a selection of works by outsider artist Purvis Young and Les Nabis artist Édouard Vuillard. Both artists draw from religion, politics, and everyday scenes to transform the academic foundations of art into their own synthesis of metaphors and symbols. The unifying concept in this exhibition can be interpreted through Maurice Denis’s 1890 essay entitled The Definition of Neo-traditionalism, “Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a female nude or some sort of anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.”

The expression provides visual context and is the common thread between Young and Vuillard. There is more focus on the surrounding environment and interplay of color rather than the subjects themselves. Edouard Vuillard’s intimate paintings can be noted for the unblended colors, which like Young, allowed him to convey form and depth in an ambiguous and relational manner. Though in contrast to Young’s lively work which was made public and engages with the external environment, Vuillard’s work resonates inward through muted and skewed perspectives.

In Women in Profile, Vuillard pays close attention to the environment surrounding the female figure. She is a sitter for the artist and seems to convey a vacant expression amidst the dark background. The muddled tones and harsh strokes indicate Vuillard’s gestural movement, and although rendered somewhat flat there suggests a sense of depth. Vuillard’s perspective, which coincides with his other piece in the exhibition Nude seen from Behind, unites a significant and iconic concept — paintings should parallel to the realities of the world.

Just as his Les Nabis predecessor who questioned subjectivity and traditional methods, Young’s gestural lines are layered color on color, emphasizing the flatness of each surface. Separate tones reverberate off one another to create a cacophony of expression and repetition. His work directly arises from his locality, painting on found objects. Young repurposed fragments in the streets of Overtown, Florida to reflect his experience and observations within his community — recycling objects of the past to illustrate present qualms and protest. Painted rhythmically, with jumbled figures and colors, each surface is anecdotal, depicting spur of the moment social impressions and cultural reactions.

Young’s paintings are a cascade of western art history and his personal insights into American culture. Flipping through artbooks of Old Masters, Young composed work that alludes to the Fauvist colors of Henri Matisse and the swirling brushstrokes of Vincent van Gogh. Further motifs throughout his work, such as oblong-shaped heads, horses, and soldiers, reveal Young’s ruminations on the social conflicts of the 1960s, especially the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. However, Young’s paintings are hopeful and bright, accrediting people for their good amidst the moral turbulence of the time.

Young desired that his paintings would speak louder and say more than he could. Perhaps best demonstrated through his ambitious public project: “Good Bread Alley” (1970’s), which displayed a myriad of paintings, bunched tightly together, edge to edge — no wall space wasted. His work lived among the streets as he did, asking viewers to be attentive to the inherent relationship between the immediate and extraneous environment and their experience within.



from February 20, 2020 to March 29, 2020

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