Dead Blogging ‘Barry McGee’ At The ICA

Well the Missus and I trundled down to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and it was, well, headscratching.

Mostly we were there to see the Barry McGee exhibit, described this way on the ICA website:

“It’s pure chaos, claiming a territory that doesn’t belong to you to state your own identity. It’s like saying, ‘I’ve got no other way to say I exist.”


Barry McGee began exhibiting his art in the late 1980s, not in a museum or gallery, but on his home streets of San Francisco. At that time the city was reeling from a lackluster economy and the scourge of the AIDS crisis, and citizens often took to the streets in protest and to raise awareness of societal woes. Inspired by this activism and the more politicized forms of protest graffiti and signage perpetrated by politically minded groups, as well as a tight-knit community of fellow taggers and the burgeoning hardcore music scene in San Francisco.

McGee developed as a graffiti artist, often under the tag name “Twist.” Deploying a visual vocabulary that borrows elements from graffiti, comics, hobo art, sign painting, and other sources, McGee’s imagery simultaneously celebrates and critiques his diverse Mission District neighborhood. He has long viewed the city a vital site for art and activism, but his more recent work brings the urban condition into art spaces with installed environments that express the anarchic vitality of inner-city street life.

Representative samples of his graffiti work (for lots of other artwork, see this slideshow):



That seems to reside at the intersection of art, craft, and vandalism.

The rest of McGee’s work, meanwhile, seems to reside at the intersection of art, craft, and whatever.

Then again, maybe I’m just not smart enough to get it.

Which is how I also felt in most of the other mishmash of ICA exhibits.

Call me shallow but ICA = I Can’t Apprehend.

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2 Responses to Dead Blogging ‘Barry McGee’ At The ICA

  1. On the other hand, it is an astoundingly ugly and unwelcoming building.

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