Barry McGee at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Two gallery artists share their experience at the recently-ended exhibition Barry McGee at the ICA in Boston:

Stacey Alickman writes: “Barry McGee is a master draughtsman from the world of graffiti art.  The vast quantities of doleful faces and engaging typography become a pleasant assault on the retinas. His impulse to fill space, all space, feels urgent yet organized. The work relates to so many artists whose work I appreciate — from Mad Magazine’s Sergio to the many artists of underground comics, to the paintings of Jim Nutt, to the outsider art of Jean Dubuffet and Adolf Wolfli.

Installation view
Installation view

McGee elevates his work through beautifully composed arrangements that feel both spiritual and transcendent. There are cluster installations that are made of framed, fairly small drawings. One is required to come close to the work and experience each micro-element. The drawings of people and creatures are funny and sentimental, random and appealing. But it is also necessary to step back and examine the cluster as a whole. This is like being at a party filled with people, only to step away in order to observe the crowd.

Barry McGee — sheeple, gouache on paper, 12.5” x 49.5”, 2009
Barry McGee — sheeple, gouache on paper, 12.5” x 49.5”, 2009

The piece that I was most taken by was the one I thought about days after seeing the exhibit. It was a shed that contained the artist’s own images and those of his late wife, Margaret Kilgallen. Peering into this shed, an ersatz home, is an intimate and bittersweet experience. Their domestic life had been intertwined with the making of art and the shed secures this legacy.”

And Jennifer Moses provides a video here.


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