I’ve held off on posting my photos from Barry McGee’s retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum until now because I was waiting for the words to come. Curators Lawrence Rinder and Dena Beard transformed the museum into a curated (yet casual) and contained (yet unrestrained) model of McGee’s world. It was epic immersion—a rich environment to explore. I took the curators’ tour and was free to wander through the layers upon layers of visual information and clusters of characters and graphics.
But when I search through all my photos and memories for explanation, I feel as though I’ve hit upon a googlewhack. I have really only one thing to say about the retrospective, and it’s that you should go experience it. I can’t use words to describe it for you.
Jeffrey Deitch calls Barry McGee his favorite artist. The BAM curators say McGee is the most important artist to emerge from California in the last generation. Cindy fucking Sherman owns McGee’s ballpoint pen drawings. (McGee’s sweet mom, who, along with Barry’s brother Mike, attended the curators’ tour, owns two bottle portraits, and told us there are no known Fongs in the family.)
The retrospective includes work from all eras: graffiti, characters, drawings, paintings, bottles, geometry, tikis, installations, clusters, pimples, animatronics and so much more. McGee spent two and a half months working on the exhibit, and it shows. If you wander down Bancroft and stop in a nondescript Indian eatery, you’ll even find a TWIST tag in the men’s bathroom. For those for whom geography is a barrier to seeing this, click through for some 50 photos. For everyone else, the Barry McGee retrospective runs through December 9th at BAM in Berkeley, California. Highly recommended!
Barry McGee’s Mom checking out the exhibit!
Barry McGee/Twist tag in Indian restaurant bathroom, Berkeley 2012