Barry McGee Rocks Berkeley!

(Outside of the Berkeley Art Museum, “Snitch” is one of Barry’s many graffiti names) 
Approaching the usually grey, conformist and staid Berkeley Art Museum we were pleasantly shocked to see the large graffiti scrawl on the side of the front facade. YES! 
Excuse me while I kiss the sky!
It was a hint at the goodies to come and an exhilerating sense of hope and pride welled up inside me – that our local museum is taking some chances and showing some truly contemporary art. I was not to be disappointed. Not only did BAM put together a truly fantastic exhibition of local artist Barry McGee’s work, but they went the extra mile – allowing him to take over almost the whole museum. Kudos to the curators! It hits you like a great art slap in the face as you walk through the doors…
Entire walls were covered with Barry’s found objects, metal and tile scrap, countless drawings, doodles and sketches, salon-style framed art, installations, set-up scenes, murals and street art. In the first gallery to your right (pics below) the wall is covered with rusty old metal tiles, interspersed with drawings. In the far corner the walls are dripped with brown paint upon which are hung salon-style, countless sketches of Barry’s signature characters and found graphics.
Main Gallery Space
On the main ground level (overview pic is 2nd from the top of post) were a number of huge installations with kinetic mannequins or sculptures, automated to move like they are actually spray painting – almost like an amusement park dedicated to the people and neighborhoods of gritty street art.
A whole house is built in the space – part home, part small business (Fong’s), and part surf shack…

Peering through the windows of  the “home” section of the building, you can see s a wonderful mess of belongings – records, books, furniture and art. And in one back room, a discreetly placed glimpse of a man in bed, moving to his rhythm of masturbation… Parents – don’t worry, the window is too high for kids, so no embarrassing questions. (Below: Apologies here, it was difficult to get a good shot of this for obvious reasons)

A wall of Barry’s geometric inspired graphics with ethnic-inspired, beautifully carved, wood kinetic sculptures of people – spraying paint upon the graphics. (below)

A real van up-ended, topped with three tottering mannequin guys, in motion – painting graffiti on the level above. (below)

And a dumpster which appears to be full of garbage – until you peek around the edge of it to find a public bathroom inside it, complete with another tagger in motion, doing his deed on the mirror. (below)

There is also a large curved mound built out from the wall completely covered with more art, ephemera and scrawled words, a towering column of TVs  and even a potted plant with a woman’s arm moving out of it – doing what? Spray painting a wall of course! (below)

Detail from the art “mound”, “T.H.R.” stands for “The Human Race”

Lower Level Gallery
On we went down a ramp to find a section of more wonderfully expressive wall art  and a very realistic looking artist on a ladder, again in motion, painting a section. (below) 

By the back windows is a really intriguing assemblage of empty liquor bottles, all hung on strings and painted with individual faces or cartoons. (below) Rumor has it that Barry would find winos on the streets and paint their faces on their own empty bottles… I really, really loved this particular wall.

Upper Level Gallery
Upwards we went, past the towering graffiti dummies to yet another level. This one was again filled with art and sculptures but also a lot of plexi cases, full of personal tidbits, journals, napkin doodles, flyers, scrawled notes, family memorabilia, objects … you-name-it. Very difficult to get decent photos thru the cases… so you will just have to visit in person! There were also four recent etchings by Barry that I really loved, the one photo I could capture through the glare (at the very bottom) does not do it justice – just lovely, detailed new work. 

I just can’t gush enough about this spectacular show, it is a real treat, one to experience in person, if at all possible… It is on exhibit through Dec. 9th, 2012. 
And if you can’t – we’ve got  many more photos – at our Flickr set, here.

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