Barry McGee received his BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute and was associated with the Mission School, a movement primarily influenced by urban realism, graffiti, and American folk art, with a focus on social activism. McGee’s works constitute candid and insightful observations of modern society, and his aim of actively contributing to marginalized communities has remained the same throughout his career, from his days as “Twist” (his graffiti moniker) to his current work as a global artist. Whether it be consumerism or social stratification, McGee has given voice to his concerns through his art, taking on different personas, such as Ray Fong, Lydia Fong, P.Kin, Ray Virgil, and B. Vernon. His trademark motif, a male caricature with droopy eyes, references his empathy for those who identify the streets as their home. His conglomeration of experiences has led McGee to create a unique visual language consisting of geometric patterns, recurring symbols, and the use of the “cluster method,” while experimenting with various unconventional media, including glass bottles and other found objects. His recent large-scale murals and his meticulous archive of paintings and drawings examine the notion of public versus private space and the accessibility of art.
McGee’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at museums and institutions including Fondazione Prada, Milan; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, California. His works are part of public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the UC Berkeley Museum of Art and Pacific Film Archive; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; New Art Gallery Walsall, United Kingdom; and Fondazione Prada, Venice.