Artist of the Week: Barry McGee

Work done illegally outdoors or without permission feels like pure freedom to me

Barry McGee, formerly known as Twist, is a contemporary artist born in California in 1966. Like many ‘new age’ artists McGee is multi-talented, with his abilities stretching from painting to sculpting, multi-media installation and street graffiti. McGee has received wide recognition and numerous awards for his talent.

McGee started his journey as an artist on the streets where he says he finds the “ultimate freedom” because it feels more “pure, spontaneous and exciting”. His work later became popular and he was offered exhibition space in galleries. McGee was reluctant to enter traditional gallery spaces at first but he found a way to create a street feel inside the gallery by painting directly onto the walls, clustering his work in an abstract manner and insisting on including outdoor displays with his exhibitions. In fact McGee is considered to be a pioneer for this style of display, influencing many street artists to bring their work to traditional galleries.

McGee is known for his use of vibrant colours, geometric patterns, avant-garde characters and distinguished typeface. One of his most iconic trademarks is his “toons”, characterized by their sagging eyes, heavy eyelids and expressive facial expressions. These characters represent the marginalized population and touch on the issues surrounding consumerist culture and identity. McGee draws his inspiration from many different avenues such as urban culture, other artists and everyday living.

Although McGee’s work has been and is exhibited in several prominent galleries, you can still find pieces of his art where it all began… on the streets.

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