BAM/PFA Presents: Barry McGee: His First Midcareer Survey. The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley, CA)

Barry McGee

Barry McGee. Detail of The Houston Wall in NYC. (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Berkeley, CA, May 14, 2012 — The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) proudly presents Barry McGee, the first ever midcareer survey of the San Francisco–based artist. This exceptionally comprehensive exhibition explores his work from the late 1980s to the present, and gives the artist an opportunity to produce new work. Including rarely seen early etchings, re-creations of large-scale installations, vibrant abstract paintings, animatronics, photographs, painted surfboards, and an intervention on the building exterior, Barry McGee provides a much-anticipated opportunity to experience and assess the broad scope of the artist’s multifaceted career and practice in a single exhibition.

“Barry has influenced a generation of international artists, with the Bay Area as the welcoming and appreciative center for his dynamic, engaged, and progressive approach to art-making,” says BAM/PFA Director and Barry McGee co-curator Lawrence Rinder. “So it is with a sense of privilege and special responsibility that we present this first midcareer survey of his work.”

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.” 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. His extraordinary skill as a draughtsman is balanced by a passion for pushing the boundaries of art: his work can be shockingly informal in the gallery and surprisingly elegant on the street.

McGee commands a staggering array of media to bring his art into being, including empty liquor bottles, spray-paint cans, tagged signs, televisions, wrenches, scrap wood, and metal. His installations don’t so much occupy space as they engulf it. Dizzying color patterns pour into corners and seep into adjacent rooms; walls packed with clusters of framed illustrations and images bubble out as if to touch viewers; and the interiors of overturned vans become viewing spaces of their own.

McGee will be in residence for the installation of the exhibition from mid-June through late August. Barry McGee is organized by Rinder, with Curatorial Assistant Dena Beard, and is accompanied by a major catalog featuring texts by Alex Baker, Natasha Boas, and Germano Celant 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.

Public Programs

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Opening Celebration
5:00 VIP Opening
6:00 Member Opening

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
12:00 Curators’ Gallery Tour
Lawrence Rinder and Dena Beard
Join the exhibition curators, Director Lawrence Rinder and Curatorial Assistant Dena Beard, as they share their insights into the work of Barry McGee, touching on key themes from the late 1980s to the present.

Barry McGee will be inspiration for a series of fall 2012 L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA events, including performances by Devendra Banhart, T.I.T.S, and Clare Rojas. Other programs include a conversation with Rinder and Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; an illustrated lecture about the history of graffiti by photographer Jim Prigoff; a stencil-making workshop with David Anthony King; and a zine-making workshop with V. Vale. As full details for these events are still forming, a comprehensive Barry McGee public programs press release will follow later this summer.

Guided tours of the exhibition with UC Berkeley graduate student tour guides will be offered on selected Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. and selected Sundays at 2 p.m. See the museum’s online calendar for the schedule:

Related Materials

Barry McGee
Edited by Lawrence Rinder and Dena Beard with contributions by Alex Baker, Natasha Boas, and Germano Celant.
Published by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in association with D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.
Hardcover, 450 pages
BAM/PFA ISBN 978-0-9719397-0-7
Publication date: August 2012
DAP ISBN 978-1-935202-85-1
Publication date: September 2012

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
August 24–December 9, 2012

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
April 5–September 2, 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, and Stuart Shave/Modern Art. Additional support is provided by Rena Bransten, Gallery Paule Anglim, Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, Suzanne Geiss, Nion McEvoy, and the BAM/PFA Trustees.

Special thanks to Citizens of Humanity for their additional support of BAM/PFA’s grade-school art experience programs.