Surfboards and Boogie Boards By Barry McGee (All Photos By Gail)
Cheim & Read is currently hosting an exhibition of new work by Barry McGee, which is the McGee’s first solo show with the gallery and his first show in New York in eight years. McGee is arguably among the most well-known and influential artists from the San Francisco Bay Area to have international success. His boldly graphic, colorful work incorporates a multitude of influences (including graffiti, American folk art and Op Art), but especially the urban street culture he knows well.
Translating the city’s unique vernacular into artistic imagery, McGee celebrates the diversity, distinctive characters and neighborhood communities of the inner-city. His work critiques consumerist culture and the constant backdrop of commercialism in everyday interactions; rejecting the billboard and chain store, McGee instead finds inspiration in the seeming randomness of graffiti, the endless uploading of images on the internet, and the creative styling of misfits. McGee’s work succeeds in its sensitive balance between anarchy and collaboration, resulting in environments which immerse the viewer in his singular, yet inclusive, vision.
The multi-image, whimsical commercial style of his work reminded me every much of artworks by Jim Houser and also Rebus Puzzle artist Stephen Powers.
Potato King Detail from Larger Painting
Directly involved with the installations of his shows, McGee organizes his multi-layered compositions on-site. For the Cheim & Read exhibition, assembled clusters of framed drawings and hand-painted wood panels accompany loose stacks of embellished surfboards, fetish-like wooden objects and specially-made furniture.
Drawings, paintings and sculptures are treated equally; echoing his anti-establishment sensibility, McGee refuses hierarchies of material or subject matter. His recent work is comprised of flat-surfaced, brightly-colored geometric motifs, serial images and caricatures of cartoon-like characters, and recurring monikers, like the pseudonym “L. Fong,” and the acronyms “THR” (The Human Race or The Harsh Reality) and “DFW” (Down for Whatever).
Click on Image to Enlarge for Detail
Interspersed among the abstract panels (which sometimes expand along bulbous walls and around corners en masse), the images and words provide an enigmatic but individualized narrative in an otherwise vibrating, tile-like field of intense pattern.
Visually stimulating, perceptive, and seeming to channel the various rhythmic beats of urban culture, McGee’s work addresses issues of identity, mark-making, authorship and autonomy within the bustling, constantly changing tableau of city life.
This is one of my favorite new exhibits of the season. Don’t miss it!
Barry McGee will be on Exhibit through October 26th, 2013 at Cheim & Read, located at 547 West 25t Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.