August 27, 2012

Barry McGee @ the BAM/Introduction

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A retrospective of San Francisco graffiti artist Barry McGee opened at The Berkeley Art Museum on August 24. The exhibition is so massive and complex, it took two months to install it. I had a great time doing the shoot for the opening reception on August 23 and it was more than worth the wait.

The exhibition is huge and I got so many photos, I divided them into two sections:

The Barry McGee Exhibition

The Barry McGee Reception

Although there is very limited notation on those pages; I let the photos, which can be viewed as a slideshow, tell the story. All narration has been kept to this page.

In addition, there is a Barry McGee/BAM review by Artforum.

Enjoy, Styrous®
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During the reception, entertainment was provided by DJ Damon and Filth Mongers (a term for someone who is involved in the dealing or trading of filthy or obscene material according to Urban Dictionary). Filth Mongers can be heard and seen on Vimeo and images of them are on their Flickr page.

There was a performance piece by Philip Huang that referenced the McGee/Adidas controversy (see below).

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 The exhibition . . .

When you walk into the museum one of the first things you see is a van standing upright on its front end with a pyramid of men standing on the back end of it. The man at the top is tagging the wall of the museum, his arm is in motion. It is a sculpture so real I honestly thought it was real men doing the act right then and there. I thought to myself, "Gocha!!!!!!!". So far, so good.

On the ground floor is a full-scale mom-and-pop shop titled “Fong’s 99¢ Store” (Fong is one of the monikers McGee uses, as well as Lydia Fong, Ray Fong, Bernon Vernon, P.Kin, Ray Virgil, Twist, Twister, Twisty and Twisto).

Next to Fong's is a tower of TV monitors which made me think, appropriately, of the biblical Tower of Babel.

On an upper level of the museum, is one of his art pieces, a wooden sculpture of a man’s head. The head mechanically and repetitiously beats its forehead against the wall of the gallery. No explanation needed for that one.

Everything is decay and disorder, a hodge-podge (or so it seems) of everything representing modern urban life.

 . . . and a little background.

Born in San Francisco in 1966, McGee graduated from El Camino High School in South San Francisco. He graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991.

He came out of the Mission School art movement and graffiti boom in the San Francisco Bay Area during the early nineties.

McGee was involved in a controversy regarding the Adidas Y1 HUF, a shoe for which he provided the artwork. The
artwork generated a protest campaign by Asian-Americans who claimed the picture on the shoe's tongue depicted a racist stereotype; as a result, Adidas pulled the sneaker from the market. In a press release in March of 2006, McGee stated that the drawing was a portrait of himself as an eight-year-old child; he is half Chinese. The performance piece by Philip Huang during the opening reception on August 23 referenced that controversy.

The Barry McGee exhibition was reviewed by Artforum. The exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum runs through December 9, 2012.


photos by Styrous® can be seen at:
Barry McGee @ the BAM/The Exhibition
Barry McGee @ the BAM/The Reception


Styrous® ~ August 27, 2012
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