Press Release


First-ever mid-career survey of influential artist Barry McGee opens April 6 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

Barry McGee
April 6 – Sept. 2, 2013


(Boston—Feb. 13, 2013) The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston presents the first mid-career survey of influential San Francisco–based artist Barry McGee. McGee began sharing his work in the 1980s, not in a museum or gallery setting but on the streets of San Francisco. McGee uses a vocabulary drawn from comics, hobo art, sign painting, and graffiti to address a range of issues, from individual survival to social malaise to alternative forms of community. McGee’s extraordinary skill as a draughtsman and printmaker is balanced by an interest in pushing the boundaries of art—his work can be shockingly informal in the gallery and surprisingly elegant on the street. This chronological survey of McGee’s work from the 1990s to the present traces the artist’s formal and thematic development over two decades. The exhibition features over 30 works, including rarely seen early works on paper; reassembled works from key installations; a tower of video pieces; a massive three-dimensional cluster of drawings, paintings, and photographs; as well as other recent works. Coordinated for the ICA by Jenelle Porter, Mannion Family Senior Curator, Barry McGee is organized by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The exhibition is on view at the ICA from April 6 through Sept. 2, 2013.

“Barry McGee is one of the most important contributors to the powerful and varied body of work that has emerged out of street culture,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “His distinctive imagery, collaborative practice, and compassionate approach to the issues and energy of the streets have had a profound influence on a generation of artists, and we are very pleased to present the first retrospective of his work at the ICA.”

McGee, who trained professionally in painting and printmaking, was one of many artists who broke out of the confines of art schools, galleries, and museums in the 1980s and 1990s to make the city itself a living space for art and activism.

“Over the past two decades, McGee’s practice has explored a vocabulary of styles and mediums, from figurative drawing to vibrant, geometric painted panels, from piled up and tagged vans to animatronic figures that animate the gallery, to videos and 'zines," says Porter. "McGee is an absolutely towering presence in the still developing history of street art and culture."

McGee commands a staggering array of media to bring his art into being, including empty glass bottles, spray-paint cans, tagged signs, televisions, scrap wood, and metal. His installations don’t so much occupy space as they engulf it. Dizzying color patterns pour into corners and seep into adjacent rooms; walls packed with clusters of framed illustrations and images bubble out as if to touch viewers. His more recent work has brought the urban experience into the space of the gallery. Increasingly, his large-scale installation environments express the vitality of the city itself, incorporating old tires and other found elements, and often spilling beyond the frame of the gallery walls.

Image: Barry McGee, Untitled (Crawling Man), 1999/2012, Private Collection, Photo: Tom Powel Imaging.

Press preview
Media are invited to preview the exhibition on Friday, April 5, at 9:30 am. RSVP to Amanda Lassell at

Exhibition-related programs
April 12, 2013, 6 - 9 pm
Teen Night: Who Is R. Fong?
Free for teens
This Barry McGee-inspired Teen Night explores the artist’s dynamic creative process with hands-on art activities, a live performance by the ICA Teens DJ Collective, and a youth fashion show inspired by works on view in the exhibition.

April 21, 2013, 2pm
Artists Raúl Gonzalez + Caleb Neelon on Barry McGee
Free with museum admission
Boston-based artists Raúl Gonzalez and Caleb Neelon share their perspectives on the writing and figures often found in the work of Barry McGee.

May 3, 2013, 5 - 10pm
First Fridays: Street Style
Free for members / $15 nonmembers
Inspired by the work of Barry McGee, this event takes a look at the vibrant creativity of street culture. Ticket quantities for nonmembers are limited. Advance registration for members encouraged.

May 4, 2013, 10:15 am – 12:15 pm
Barry McGee–Inspired Workshop
$25 members + students / $30 nonmembers
Explore works on view in Barry McGee, then create your own urban-inspired work of art with San Francisco–schooled artist Anthony Barrows. Advance registration required; visit

Barry McGee was organized at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) by Director Lawrence Rinder and Assistant Curator Dena Beard.

The BAM/PFA presentation of Barry McGee was made possible by lead support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and presenting sponsor Citizens of Humanity. Major support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Ratio 3, Cheim & Read, the East Bay Fund for Artists at the East Bay Community Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Prism, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, and Cinelli. Additional support was provided by Rena Bransten, Gallery Paule Anglim, Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt, Suzanne Geiss, Nion McEvoy, and the BAM/PFA Trustees.









Support for the Boston presentation is provided by the
Revere Hotel Boston Common.





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