Hoss, 1999
Photo: Amy Blakemore

Barry McGee
16 September - 24 October 1999

In Hoss, which may refer to a vernacular use of the word “horse,” to police power, or to Hoss Cartwright of television¬ís Bonanza, McGee explores issues of identity, language, and communication. The gallery’s 40-foot long walls have been painted an intense, simmering red, and are saturated with an astonishing array of images. McGee, whose street name is “Twist,” mixes graffiti-like marks with finely painted details to create a humorous as well as reflective view of urban life.

Entering the gallery, viewers will be struck by images that incorporate an array of styles, including action-based street “tags,” or signatures, large cartoon-like figures, and intricately detailed framed drawings rendered on sheet music, brown bags and scraps of paper. Even empty bottles are surfaces for McGee’s repertoire of portraits, including barrel-headed sad-sacks, the kid in the baseball cap, and the onion-face. McGee’s eye for what is often overlooked gives him the power to transform these cast-off materials into objects that demand close examination. His aim, says McGee, is to record “a slice of what’s going on at a given moment … happy, sad, and all the other stuff in just getting through life.” McGee’s work packs a visual wallop that invites viewers to reexamine their own regard for the energy and concerns of the street.


Barry McGee was born in 1966 to a multi-racial family in which everyone drew. During the 1980s, he took his drawings into the streets using the tag, “Twist.” In 1991, he received a BFA in painting and printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute. McGee has exhibited at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Museo Lesar Segall, San Paulo; the Drawing Center, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This is his first exhibition in the Southwest United States.