Monday, September 30, 2013

Pure: Barry McGee at Cheim & Read

San Francisco-based artist Barry McGee's exhibition of new work contains a dynamic assortment of paintings, installation, and ceramics all done in McGee's West Coast street-art style. Using geometric shapes and patterns in a mix of exuberant neons, corals and earth tones, McGee's work is approachable and set to please a diverse audience, from local graffiti artists to international art world professionals. 

It is a pleasure to see this collection of works in various mediums balancing and communicating with one another. From ceramic objects that could fit in your hand, to large, eloquently composed paintings of text and intricate patterns, there is a wonderful sense of play and enjoyment. McGee's practice seems to be one of constant making, intercepting, and documenting. This is particularly apparent in the large installation in the back room of the gallery, where photographs mix with paintings and drawings in found frames. This compilation of dozens of framed pieces comes across as composed storytelling, allowing the viewer an entryway and journey through McGee's work.

Longtime fans may challenge McGee's cult credibility for showing in such a commercial arena, but he is an artist who can command any indoor or outdoor space and his work looks comfortable in Cheim & Read. This exhibition demonstrates that McGee is a contemporary artist who is relevant to a larger audience than is often reached through the traditional Chelsea gallery space.


  1. I think this is a well-written review, and you give us a great sense of McGee’s artistic world. But I’m not sure I clearly understand your second paragraph: what exactly are the discarded items you talk about? And in what sense is McGee documenting? What is his specific identity?
    I think there is a bit too much ideas for such a short review, and you might just focus on one line of thought: either McGee’s various mediums (like in paragraph two); or maybe his special relation to the commercial art space as a street artist (as in the third paragraph).

  2. It is often tricky to bring street art into the white box cube of a Chelsea gallery, but I agree with Jes, and it seems Barry McGee and Cheim & Reade have cooperated to make a high art space “refreshing and playful’ without a major compromise. The surfboards, ceramics and furniture relax the space and the more monochromatic traditional paintings remind us of an art show proper. The last room of an undulating wall of small-framed iconic McGee imagery is an appropriate installation for an (outsider) artist who is now well established showing in a well-established gallery.