Fusing together found and invented imagery, tags and assorted objects Barry McGee draws on a range of influences including the Mexican muralists, tramp art, the graffiti artists of the 70’s and 80’s and the San Francisco Beat poets to create a unique visual language.
The work has the strong immediately recognizable visual signature of the best graffiti art, but is also enormously poetic and evocative. It communicates the artist’s strong empathy with people who have been left behind by contemporary society.
Also known by his street name, twist, Barry McGee has a large following in the street art community. He has been working on the streets of San Francisco, his native city, since the mid 1980’s where his images continue to endure on walls, mailboxes and other surfaces despite the continuous campaign of public authorities to paint them out.
McGee has long resisted showing his works in museums and commercial galleries but he has recently become more active ion the conventional art world context. His work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts in 2004 as well as in his 2005 solo show at Deitch Projects, entitled One More Thing.
A lauded and much-respected cult figure in a bi-coastal subculture that comprises skaters, graffiti artists, and West Coast surfers, Barry McGee was born in 1966 in California, where he continues to live and work. In 1991, he received a BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute. His drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations take their inspiration from contemporary urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles and spray-paint cans, tagged signs, wrenches, and scrap wood or metal. McGee is also a graffiti artist, working on the streets of America’s cities since the 1980s, where he is known by the tag name “Twist.” He views graffiti as a vital method of communication, one that keeps him in touch with a larger, more diverse audience than can be reached through the traditional spaces of a gallery or museum. His trademark icon, a male caricature with sagging eyes and a bemused expression, recalls the homeless people and transients who call the streets their home. McGee says, “Compelling art, to me, is a name carved into a tree.” His work has been shown at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and on streets and trains all over the United States. He and his daughter, Asha, live in San Francisco.