Berkeley museum bringing street art inside with Barry McGee

Courtesy PhotoArresting image: Barry McGee’s works — including  this untitled piece of evocative faces painted onto empty liquor bottles — are on view in Berkeley in an exhibition focusing on the artist’s career since the mid-1980s.

Courtesy PhotoArresting image: Barry McGee’s works — including this untitled piece of evocative faces painted onto empty liquor bottles — are on view in Berkeley in an exhibition focusing on the artist’s career since the mid-1980s.

With its jutting angles and concrete walls, the Berkeley Art Museum is the perfect place to display the graffiti art of Barry McGee.

The word “amaze,” scrawled in fat red letters, covers the glass doors at the main entrance. The museum’s facade has been tagged as well. It’s cleverly done; only close up is it clear that the graffiti is confined to a removable tarp.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 14px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

“Barry McGee,” running through Dec. 9, is the first midcareer survey of the San Francisco-based artist, who studied painting and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute before turning to the streets to hone his skills.

The exhibition focuses on his work since the late 1980s and includes etchings, installations and murals. McGee also surfs, and there are stacks of surfboards, some covered in fluorescent geometric shapes.

Throughout the show, viewers are invited to consider the furtive act of tagging. The museum’s angles and gray surfaces make good stand-ins for freeway ramps and urban corners. On one wall hangs a jacket, left open to show how the inner lining has been re-sewn to hide cans of spray paint.

“For me, graffiti means making marks on surfaces using just about anything, be it markers, spray, paint, chalk, lipstick, varnish, ink. Or it can be the result of scratches and incisions,” McGee says in an interview in the exhibition catalog. “The aim is to maintain the energy created by disturbance or excitement in the street. To carry on pissing people off, challenging their ownership.”

On the main floor, a large van sits on its hood. Three figures stand on the rear of the vehicle, balancing on each other’s shoulders like acrobats. On top of them, an animatronic tagger moves his arm back and forth, holding a paint can.

There’s a recreated bodega, complete with signage that bears the pseudonym “R. Fong,” which McGee sometimes uses. Broken chairs, dying plants, wood scraps, a pair of Vespas and other debris surround the shop.

McGee reinvents and reinterprets, taking rusty metal trays from a letterpress shop and using them as frames or as a surface for painting. A standout of the show is a collection of clear glass liquor bottles, each one painted with the face of a cartoonish, sad-eyed man.

“I love graffiti because it enables kids from every social extraction to do something that brings them closer to art, when they normally wouldn’t be stimulated to be visually creative,” McGee says. “Graffiti helps to develop an awareness of immediate expressive and uncontrolled freedom.”

Art & MuseumsartsBarry McGeeBerkeley Art Museumentertainment

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

An instructor at Sava Pool teaches children drowning prevention techniques. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Indoor city pools reopen for lap swimming and safety classes

Two of San Francisco’s indoor city pools reopened Tuesday, marking another step… Continue reading

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Most Read