Recap: Barry McGee Returns to NYC with Solo Exhibition at Cheim & Read

By - Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

I was thrilled to learn about Barry McGee’s return to New York City for his recent opening at the Cheim & Read Gallery in Chelsea. While I was unable to make the opening last Thursday, I did make it to the gallery recently to shoot some of the work and wander around Chelsea in search of the tags I was positive I’d find littering the neighboring blocks. Sure enough, I was treated to not only an intriguing installation featuring McGee’s signature geometric patterns, collage of framed photos and innovative embellished surfboards, but also the handstyles of several West Coast legends that consistently leave their names on the streets of any city that dares host a Barry McGee art opening. It’s all part of the game. Take notice of the several Jade tribute tags from writers like Twist, Adek & Seedr. It’s evident that his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of some of the biggest names in graffiti, including Barry McGee himself. Enjoy this exclusive gallery of photos shot both inside & outside of the Chelsea gallery and feel free to share your opinions of the work on display in the comments section below. Welcome back Mr. McGee! RIP Jade. Jade Forever. From the Cheim & Read press release: “Born in 1966, Barry McGee is arguably the most well-known and influential of the recent surge of artists from the Bay Area to have international success. He was raised in San Francisco, studied painting and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute (graduating in 1991), and continues to live and work in the city. McGee’s boldly graphic, colorful work incorporates a multitude of influences (including, for example, graffiti, American folk art, and Op Art), but is most immediately evocative of the urban street culture from which he hails. Engaging the ways in which the city’s unique vernacular translates into artistic imagery, McGee celebrates the diversity, distinctive characters (one of his well-known motifs is a crawling, sad-sack bum), and neighborhood communities of the innercity. 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. Directly involved with the installations of his shows, McGee organizes his multi-layered compositions onsite. 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). 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.”

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