With Art Basel Miami Beach at its peak, Wynwood, the homebase of several ABMB satellite fairs, is teeming with painters, tourists, musicians, "Occupiers", and people watchers. A few blocks to the south, in Overtown, the picture is very different. It’s a day like any other.
At least that’s how 19-year-old Miami photographer De'Quan Williams sees it. When he tried to spread the news of his exhibition in Wynwood, he found that many of the Overtown residents he talked to didn’t know about all the Art Basel related events that would be happening just a few blocks away.
“These are two communities in the same location that aren’t even aware of each other,” he said.
Williams would like to help change that, and, as the grandson of Miami art icon Purvis Young, he has some authority on the subject.
Young was a self-taught artist whose work, a blend of collage, drawing, painting, and found objects, tended to focus on the plight of the impoverished neighborhood where he lived and worked for almost three decades, Overtown. He died last year at 67 after a heart attack. [For more on Young, see his New York Times obituary, or this Miami New Times blog post about his death, which includes links to all their past stories about him]
Williams is heavily influenced by his grandfather’s legacy. His current project began when he was approached by Ali Spechler, 22, a South Florida-born artist living in Brooklyn who is a recent graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York. She asked him to send her photos of everyday life in Overtown for her to paint.
“I wanted to take De'Quan's photos and experiences and put them in a different setting where they couldn’t be ignored,” said Spechler, who since graduation has had several shows in greater New York, including a solo show in Brooklyn.
The collaboration resulted in a series of paintings and drawings which are currently on display at the Purvis Young studio in Wynwood. The exhibit has been extended to run until the next Second Saturday, which is on Dec. 11.
It should be said that Williams and Spechler are emerging artists and this exhibit hasn't been acclaimed by an established critic. That could change tomorrow.
What’s clear at this point is that they are both committed to the idea of art with a purpose, and are unlikely to stop anytime soon.
“I want to collaborate forever,” Williams said. “Eventually we would try to find different themes to it.”