street art, urban art

Barry McGee

United States 1966

Street Art, Graffiti, Installation, Painting

Barry McGee
Barry McGee
United States
August 19, 2016

Barry McGee is a cult figure when it comes to graffiti scene of the American bi-coastal subculture involving skaters, surfers, and non-traditional artists. He has been working on the streets of American cities ever since the early 80s and he goes by the tag name Twist, although he had many other monikers, such as Ray Fong, Lydia Fong, Bernon Vernon, P.Kin and Ray Virgil. For Barry McGee, the world of artistic interventions is an important means of communication which allows him to get in touch with the most diverse audiences around the world. Compelling creation, to me, is a name carved into a tree, the artist claims.[1]

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Barry McGee – Crawling Man, 2012 – image via

Inspiration Related to American Culture

Barry McGee was born in the mid-60s in California, where he continues to live and create. He is a classically trained artist – in 1991, he received a BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Institute. Besides his interest in fine arts, McGee has been passionate about graffiti ever since his early age when he started tagging in the neighborhoods of San Francisco. During the 1980s, he coined his moniker Twist, which became well-known near his home city. After he gained this initial public exposure in California, Barry McGee experienced a strong need to expand to other areas, such as different cities but also places not traditionally acknowledged for promoting unconventional pieces – galleries and museums. When it comes to nature and aesthetics of his work, Barry McGee draws inspiration from a pessimistic side of the modern lifestyle. He describes his experiences of the nowadays life as an unpleasant mix of overstimulation, frustrations, addictions and constant attacks of advertising industry..[2] McGee’s eclectic works such as drawings, paintings, installations, and mixed-media pieces often incorporate elements such as liquor bottles, spray-paint cans, and scrap wood or metal. Such unusual combinations infuse a strong sense of chaos and anxiety, typical for the lifestyle in modern Western societies.

Barry McGee draws inspiration from a pessimistic side of the modern lifestyle

 contact mixed art21 to obtain their untitled pieces
Barry McGee – One More Thing, 2005 – image via

Found Objects to Join Creative Imagery

The list of McGee’s influences is long – the artist is known for his admiration of the Mexican muralists, tramp artists of the 70’s and 80’s, lowbrow movement and beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs. During his successful career, Barry McGee has managed to create a uniquely rich visual language, fusing together all these influences with invented imagery, tags and found objects. His work is strongly poetic and evocative, unlike the typical graffiti. When it comes to his paintings, they are recognizable for their iconic central figures dominating abstract backgrounds made of drips, patterns, and interesting color fields. Barry McGee hasn’t limited his work to walls and canvases – instead, he painted portraits of characters on empty liquor bottles and flattened spray cans picked up at various junk yards. The artist is also known for his prototypical, trademark character with sagging eyes and confused expression. In a way, this character represents the image of homeless people and various transients who call the streets their home. Barry McGee didn’t introduce only his trademark character to the world of atypical modern creations, but he also popularized the use of paint drips and chisel tip markers. These techniques are recently used prevalently in graphic designs. McGee is also famous for his innovative display techniques, involving the clustering of paintings. These impressive clustered compositions McGee uses to arrange his works in galleries are inspired by similar installations he saw in Catholic churches in Brazil. Speaking of gallery exhibitions, the artist supports the practice of painting directly on gallery walls, because this style is bold and it clearly imitates the intrusive nature of graffiti. His artworks have been presented in numerous galleries and museums such as the Walker Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Hammer Museum and in many other eminent institutions in Milan, Tokyo, and the United Kingdom.

McGee is also known for his new display techniques, involving the clustering of selected paintings

museum made a press conference covering culture and life in California along with McGee's work
Barry McGee – Untitled, 2009 – image via

Between Streets and Eminent Galleries

The more I learned about the art world, the more my interest in what was going on outside of it increased, I didn’t have any desire to bring graffiti inside the school’s walls or anything, says Barry McGee about the evolution of his interests and artistic style. [3] In his native city of San Francisco, his imagery continues to endure on walls despite the continuous campaign of public authorities to paint his works out. Because of his constant efforts and unfathomable creativity over the last three decades, McGee became a highly respected and admired individual who nowadays counts his followers not only among the skaters and unconventional artists but also among traditional gallery audiences.

Barry McGee lives and works in San Francisco, California.


    1. Anonymous. Barry McGee, Art21 [August 19,2016]
    2. Trippe. (2007) Twist Thief, Fecal Face [August 19,2016]
    3. Prada, M., Barry McGee, Fondazione Prada, 2002.

Featured image: Barry McGee’s Portrait – image via

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2016Frieze New York 2016Cheim & Read at Frieze New YorkGroup
2015Untitled 2015Anglim Gilbert Gallery atnMiami BeachGroup
2014...And ColorAnglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2013FOCUS: Barry McGeeModern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TXSolo
2013Barry McGeeThe Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MASolo
2012Postcards From the Edge Cheim and Read Gallery, New York, NY Group
2012Barry McGeeContemporary Arts Centre, Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco Solo
2012The Road AheadRoberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA Group
2012Barry McGeeBerkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CASolo
2012Barry McGeePrism, West Hollywood, CASolo
2011Barry McGee – New WorkModern Art, London, EnglandSolo
2011Art in the StreetsThe Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA Group
2011After Hours: Murals on the BoweryNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY Group
2011FreeflowRoberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA Group
2011I Love Art 11Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan Group
2011New York MinuteGarage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow, Russia Group
2011In the Moment: ArtistsThe Luggage Store, San Francisco, CA Group
201150 Years of Bay Area ArtSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Muddguts Meets HomebaseMAMA Rotterdam, the Netherlands Group
2010DRAWMuseo de la Cludad de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico Group
2010Brush StrokesV1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2010They Knew What They WantedFraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group
2010Outside The BoxHammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA Group
2010The Last Night (two person show with HuskMitNavn Alice Gallery, BrusselsSolo
2010TransferBrazilian Cultural Pavilion, Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil Group
2010Barry McGee & Clare RojasBolinas Museum, Bolinas, California Group
2010Outside The BoxHammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA Group
2010Paper!AwesomeBaer Ridgway Exhibitions, San Francisco, CA Group
20102TheWallNew Image Art Gallery, West Hollywood, CA Group
2010Leave It Alone & Together At Last - Barry McGee & Clare RojasBolinas Museum, Bolinas, CA Group
2010Brush Strokes, Todd James & Lydia FongV1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2010The Last Night, Lydia Fong & HuskmitnavnAlice Gallery, Brussels, Belgium Group
2010The 75th Anniversary Show San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Group
2010Viva la Revolucion: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego - MCASD Downtown, San Diego, CA Group
2010DRAW - Muestra de dibujo contemporáneoMuseo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City Group
2010Orde di segnatoriAntonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, Milan, ItalyGroup
2009Mr BrownBonomo Gallery, Rome, ItalySolo
2009Mind The Gap, Barry, McGee & Phil FrostPrism Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Group
2009Born in the StreetsFondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France Group
2009American Realities, Lydia Fong, Clare Rojas & Andrew Jeffrey WrightNew Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Group
2009McGee, Templeton, PettibonCC: Circle Culture Gallery, Berlin, Germany Group
2009Work NowZ33 Hasselt Art Centre, Hasselt, Belgium Group
200975 Years Looking Forward: The Anniversary ShowSan Francisco Museum of Modern Group
2009Art mindthegapPrism, Los Angeles, LA Group
2009Installations InsideOut,Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA Group
2009When Crooks Roam The StreetsGalerie Olivier Robert, Paris, France Group
2009Lyon BiennaleLyon, France Group
2009Born in the streets-GraffitiFoundation Cartier, Paris, France Group
2009San Francisco Art Institute Alumni & Faculty: A Thin SlicBaer Ridgway Exhibitions, San Francisco, CA Group
2009Get Rich QuickCarmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CA Group
2009Liberation Upon ContactRatio 3, San Francisco Group
2009Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked EyeUniversity of California, Berkeley Art Museum Group
2009Business is (still) businessCentre Culture Les Chiroux, Liege, BelgiumGroup
2008The Big Sad: Barry McGee & Clare RojasRiverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA Group
2008Street ArtTate Modern, London, UK Group
2008And Then Again… Printed Sets and Series, 1550-2007Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA Group
200815 Year Anniversary ExhibitionGalleri Nicolai Wallner, Kopenhagen, Denmark Group
2008Beautiful Losers: Arte Actual y Cultura UrbanaLa Casa Encendida, Valencia, SpainGroup
2008DrawStolenspace Gallery, London, UK Group
2008Pacific Light: California Watercolor Refracted, 1907 – 2007Nordic Watercolor Museum (Nordiska Akvarellmuseet), Skärhamn, Sweden Group
2008Gravity, Coleccion Ernesto EspositoARTIUM Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporaneo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain Group
2008Len Lye : A Colour BoxArcade Fine Arts, London, England Group
2008A Moment for Reflection – New Work by Lydia FongRatio 3, San Francisco, CASolo
2008They Don’t Make this AnymoreBALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United KingdomSolo
2008Barry McGee & Clare RojasRiverside Art Museum, Riverside, CASolo
2008DripsyGalerie Olivier Robert, Paris, FranceGroup
2008Life on Marsthe 55th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, PAGroup
2007AlphaRatio 3, San Francisco, CA Group
2007EUPHORIONPierogi Gallery, Leipzig, Germany Group
2007Kinky Sex (Makes the World Go Round)Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Group
2007Barry McGeeThe Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2007Barry McGeeButler Gallery, Kilkenney Castle, IrelandSolo
2007Barry McGeeRedcat Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2007ExistenciasMUSAC, Leon, Spain Group
2007Mapping the SelfMuseum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL Group
2007Silly AdultGalleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2007Mad Love—Young Art from Danish Private CollectionsARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2007Pacific Light: California Watercolor Refracted, 1907 – 2007The International Center for the Arts at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA Group
2007Drawing is a Fine ArtMuseum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL Group
2007Sign LanguageDes Moines Center for the Arts, Des Moines, IAGroup
2007American Art in Chinaorganized by the Guggenheim Museum, MoCA, Los Angeles, CA in Shanghai, China Group
2007Advanced Mature WorkRedcat, Los Angeles, CASolo
2006We Have a Friend in CommonNicolai Wallner Gallery, Copenhagen, DenmarkSolo
2006The Art of Robert PimplePaule Anglim Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2006Meditations In An EmergencyMuseum of Contemporary Art Detroit, MI Group
2006Spank the MonkeyBALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom Group
2006Do Not StackRoberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, CASolo
2006Sound ZeroKunst Meran, Merano, Italy Group
2006Beautiful LosersLa Triennale de Milano, Italy Group
2006Beautiful LosersLe Tri Postal, Lille, FranceGroup
2006Don’t Abandon the ShipAllston Skirt Gallery, Boston, MA Group
2006Pure Land, Liquid PaperRatio 3, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Work Zones – Three Decades of Contemporary ArtWalter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art institute, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Clare Rojas & project space by Barry McGeeGalleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2006I Love Art 8Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan Group
2006PortraitsMarc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2005On LineThe Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark Group
2005Easy Tonto, Stuart ShaveModern Art, London, EnglandSolo
2005One More ThingDeitch Projects, New York, NYSolo
2005John Kaldor Art ProjectsMetropolitan Meat Market, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2005Things Are Really Getting BetterMuseum Het Domein, Sittard, NetherlandsSolo
2005Barry McGeeReina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Spain Solo
2005Beautiful Losers, contemporary Art and Street CultureContemporary Museum, Baltimore, MDGroup
2005UntitledRoberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, CASolo
2005Beautiful Losers, contemporary Art and Street CultureUniversity of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FLGroup
2004Barry McGee, Josh Lazcano & FriendsProject Space Headlands Center for the Arts, Fort Barry-Sausalito, CA Group
2004Color Wheel OblivionMarella Arte Contemporanea Milan, Italy Group
2004Between Art and LifeSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Group
2004Other ArtistocratsAlexander and Bonin, New York, NY Group
2004Barry McGee and Josh LazcanoGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CAGroup
2004Barry McGeePrada Foundation, Milan, ItalySolo
2004Barry McGeeModern Art, London, United KingdomSolo
2004Barry McGeePaule Anglim, San Francisco, CASolo
2004Barry McGeeMeat Market Gallery, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2004Barry McGeeRose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Boston, MASolo
2004Barry McGeeJohn Kaldor Projects, Sydney, AustrailaSolo
2004Monument to NowThe Dakis Joannou Collection, Athens, GreeceGroup
2004Beautiful LosersThe Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinatti, OHGroup
2003Ten by TwentyYerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA Group
2003Surf Style111 Minna Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group
2003A Way With WordsJohn Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA Group
2003Outerspace HillbillyThe Luggage Store, San Francisco, CA Group
2003Scribble & ScriptureRoberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, CA Group
2003Session the BowlDeitch Projects, New York, NYGroup
2002The Broken Down Mysterious Doors of the ImpossibleLump Gallery, Raleigh, NC Group
2002Liverpool BiennaleLiverpool, United Kingdom Group
2002Drawing NowMuseum of Modern Art, New York, NY Group
2002Barry McGeePrada Foundation, Milan , ItalySolo
2002Barry McGeeModern Art, London, EnglandSolo
2002Barry McGeeGallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CASolo
2001Holdfast, Barry McGee & Margaret KilgallenDeste Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, Athens, GreeceGroup
2001Un Art PopulaireFondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, FranceGroup
2001Widely UnknownDeitch Projects, New York, NY Group
2001Venice BiennialVenice, ItalyGroup
2000Street MarketParco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan Group
2000Street MarketDeitch Projects, New York, NYGroup
2000Indelible MarketInstitute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2000Barry McGeeUCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CASolo
2000Barry McGeeAlleged Galleries, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2000Made in CaliforniaLos Angels County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1999HossRice Universtiy Art Gallery, Houston, TXSolo
1999The Buddy SystemDeitch Projects, New York, NYSolo
1999Robert Crumb, Phillip Guston, Barry McGeePaul Morris Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1998RegardsWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MNSolo
1998Art From Around the BaySan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1997Drawing InstallationGalerie Tanya Rumpff, Harlem, NetherlandsGroup
1997Drawing TodaySan Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1997Barry McGeeJohn Bergruen Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
1997Bay Area NowCenter for the Arts at Yerba Buena, San Francisco, CAGroup
1996SECA Art AwardSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CAGroup
1996Figureheads & Red HerringsKoplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1996Acme CustomAcme Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
1996Wall DrawingsThe Drawing Center, New York, NYGroup
1996City FolkHolly Solomon Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1995Installation, Art & Design Studio K&T Lionheart LTD, Boston , MASolo
1995Degenerate ArtThe Lab, San Francisco, CAGroup
1995Post No BillsAcme Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
1995Barry McGeePro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CASolo
1995Missed Connections, Market Street InstallationLuggage Store, 509 Cultural Center Annex, San Francisco, CAGroup
1995InstallationStreet Art Exhibition, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1995The LibraryNew Langton Arts, San Francisco, CAGroup
1995Big Jesus Trash CanVictoria Room, San Francisco, CAGroup
1995Barry McGeeCenter Annex, San Francisco, CASolo
1995Installation, Art & Design Studio K&T Lionheart LTD, Boston, MASolo
1994InstallationCenter for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CASolo
1993InstallationMuseum Laser Segall, Sao Paulo, BrasilSolo
1993Twelve Bay Area Painters: The Eureka Fellowship WinnersSan Jose Museum of Art, San JoseGroup
1993Texture of NatureBerkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CAGroup
1993FolkloreLuggage Store, 509 Cultural Center, San Francisco, CAGroup
1993InstallationLa Raza Graphics Center, San Francisco, CAGroup
1992U.C. Santa CruzMary Porter Sesnon Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA Group
1992Barry McGeeMaseu Lasar Segall, Sao Paulo, BrasilSolo
1991Wet PaintSouthern Exposure, San Francisco, CAGroup
19913PlaySouthern Exposure, San Francisco, CAGroup
1991Wall of Resistance, Wall of ShameUC Berkeley, Berkeley, CAGroup
1991Art Against the WarA.T.A. Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
1991Multicultural ShowDiego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup