This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features Barry McGee, whose mid-career survey is on view at the Berkeley Art Museum through December 9.
In 2000 McGee and his wife Margaret Kilgallen were given free reign to make whatever they wanted in LACMA’s parking garage. Five years later, LACMA tore down the parking garage, destroying McGee’s and Kilgallen’s work. As we discussed on this week’s MAN Podcast, McGee is OK with this, at least so far as his own art goes. But Kilgallen died in 2001, and I think that LACMA’s destruction of her next-to-last major commission was an entirely unforced error. In 2005 I wrote this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times urging the museum to save at least the Kilgallens.
McGee emerged over 20 years ago as a precocious tagger named ‘Twist’ who left graffiti throughout the Bay Area. He took his visual language not so much from art history, but from other graffiti artists, comic books, traditional hobo markings and more, and used it all to take aim at the ownership of public space and the mostly corporate advertising that was increasingly filling that space in booming 1990s San Francisco.
Now after finishing with ‘Twist,’ McGee has emerged as an important figure in street-driven art. The BAM survey of McGee’s career was curated by director Lawrence Rinder and assistant curator Dena Beard. The show is open through December 9.
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Image: Barry McGee’s work (since destroyed) in LACMA’s parking garage.