Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive announces Barry McGee survey

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California (BAM/PFA) presents a survey of work by Barry McGee on view August 24–December 9, 2012.

Barry McGee, Untitled, 2005. Acrylic on glass bottles, wire; dimensions variable

Barry McGee is the first midcareer survey of the globally influential San Francisco-based artist, and provides a much-anticipated opportunity to experience his work from the late 1980s to the present. The presentation includes rarely seen early etchings, letterpress printing trays and liquor bottles painted with his cast of down-and-out urban characters, constellations of vibrant op-art painted panels, animatronic taggers, and a re-creation of a cacophonous street-corner bodega, along with many new projects.

McGee, who trained professionally in painting and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, began sharing his work in the 1980s, not in a museum or gallery setting but on the streets of San Francisco, where he developed his skills as a graffiti artist, often using the tag name “Twist.” McGee’s use of this and other monikers—such as Ray and Lydia Fong—as well as his frequent collaborations can make it difficult to precisely situate the artist’s unique authorship. Using a visual vocabulary that borrows elements from comics, hobo art, sign painting, and other sources, McGee’s work addresses a range of issues, from individual survival and social malaise to alternative forms of community and the harmful effects of capitalism, gentrification, and corporate control of public space. His often-humorous paintings, drawings, and prints—all wrought with extraordinary skill—push the boundaries of art: his work can be shockingly informal in the gallery and surprisingly elegant on the street.

McGee has long viewed the city itself as a living space for art and activism, but his more recent work has brought the urban condition into the space of the gallery. Increasingly, his installation environments express the anarchic vitality of the inner-city street, incorporating overturned cars and trucks, and often spill beyond the frame of the gallery or museum. For McGee, writes Alex Baker in the exhibition catalog, “the creation of chaos is a political act.”

Barry McGee is organized by Director Lawrence Rinder, with Assistant Curator Dena Beard, and is accompanied by a major catalog featuring texts by Baker, Natasha Boas, Germano Celant, and Jeffrey Deitch, as well as nearly three hundred images, many of which have never before been published. The exhibition will travel to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in April 2013.

Barry McGee is made possible by lead support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and presenting sponsor Citizens of Humanity. Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Ratio 3, Cheim and Read, the East Bay Fund for Artists at the East Bay Community Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Prism, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, and Cinelli. Additional support is provided by Rena Bransten, Gallery Paule Anglim, Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, Suzanne Geiss, Nion McEvoy, and the BAM/PFA Trustees.

University of California, Berkeley
Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)
2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94720
Hours: Wed–Sun, 11–5pm;
open till 9pm on [email protected] Fridays

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