A lauded and much-respected cult figure in a bi-coastal subculture that comprises skaters, graffiti artists, and West Coast surfers, Barry McGee was born in 1966 in California, where he continues to live and work. In 1991, he received a BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute. His drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations take their inspiration from contemporary urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles and spray-paint cans, tagged signs, wrenches, and scrap wood or metal. McGee is also a graffiti artist, working on the streets of America’s cities since the 1980s, where he is known by the tag name “Twist.” He views graffiti as a vital method of communication, one that keeps him in touch with a larger, more diverse audience than can be reached through the traditional spaces of a gallery or museum. His trademark icon, a male caricature with sagging eyes and a bemused expression, recalls the homeless people and transients who call the streets their home. McGee says, “Compelling art, to me, is a name carved into a tree.” His work has been shown at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and on streets and trains all over the United States.
This ART 158 lecture series event took place January 25, 2007, in the University of Utah Art Building, Salt Lake City, UT. Made possible through the generous support of the Carmen Morton Christensen Endowment, the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History, the College of Fine Arts, and ASUU.