Barry McGee (born 1966 in San Francisco) is a contemporary US artist. He is a well known graffiti artist, pioneer of the Mission School art movement, and is also known by his monikers: Twist, Ray Fong, Bernon Vernon, and P.Kin.
|Born||1966 (age 55–56)|
|Alma mater||San Francisco Art Institute|
|Movement||Mission School, Street Art|
McGee graduated from El Camino High School in South San Francisco, California. He later graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991 with a concentration in painting and printmaking. He was married to the artist Margaret Kilgallen, who died of cancer in 2001. They have a daughter named Asha.
"Acclaimed for his work in the street as a graffiti artist and for his painted installations in galleries, museums and art festivals around the world, Barry McGee crafts a visual language that makes itself understood. It is public, addressing social concerns of urban life, and very private, elaborating a unique personal style that focuses on humanity, one painstakingly detailed, fine brush-painted image at a time."
Barry McGee has exhibited, both solo and group, in galleries internationally.
McGee was a central figure in the graffiti art scene in San Francisco from the late 1980s and into the 1990s. As Twist, he became well known nationally by his stylized black and white pictographic flathead screw graffiti 'throw ups'. Later he was part of the Mission School art movement based in the aesthetics of the Mission District of San Francisco. His work is founded on a pessimistic view of the urban experience, which he describes as, "urban ills, over-stimulations, frustrations, addictions & trying to maintain a level head under the constant bombardment of advertising". He was also an artist in residence at inner-city McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, in the early '90s. Although his artistic origins lie in New York subway graffiti he has been included as a member of the street art movement.
McGee's installations consist of simple bold paintings which are influenced by Islamic patterns on tiles, vernacular sign painting, or use caricatures of the destitute. These paintings are clustered together in combination with photographs of other graffiti writers. Older work included layering of shapes, and buff marks, backgrounds of drips painted directly on the gallery wall. He has painted stylized portraits on empty bottles of liquor, flattened spray cans, and wrecked vehicles for art shows. He has collaborated frequently with Amaze, allowing him to paint the exterior and interior of the galleries exhibiting McGee's work. They have also utilized realistic moving mechanical human figures that appear to be tagging gallery walls.
The market value of his work rose considerably after 2001 as a result of his being included in the Venice Biennale and other major exhibitions. As a result, much of his San Francisco street art has been scavenged or stolen.
In 2004, as part of an exhibit at San Francisco's City Hall, McGee spray-painted "Smash the State" on the walls of Supervisor Matt Gonzalez's office. SFGate wrote: "The timing and placement of the artwork are interesting, seeing how City Hall is a registered historical landmark, and you need approval just to hang a bulletin board". Gonzalez told the press that he knew his office would be repainted for the next occupant.
McGee was involved in a controversy regarding the Adidas Y1 HUF, a shoe for which he provided the artwork. This gave rise to a protest campaign by some Asian-Americans who claimed that the picture on the shoe's tongue depicts a racist stereotype. McGee responded to the controversy in a March 2006 press release. He stated that the drawing was a portrait of himself as an 8-year-old child.