San Francisco, b.1966

TWIST (Barry McGee)

Barry McGee, also known as TWIST, was born in 1966 to Chinese-American and Irish-American parents. He began his artistic career in the 1980s, tagging the streets of San Francisco under various aliases––Ray Fong, Lydia Fong, Bernon Vernon, P.Kin, Ray Virgin, Twist, Twister, Twisty, and Twisto. Part of the Mission School Movement, McGee was an integral figure to street art developing on the West Coast. His work is influenced by the surf-skater-punk culture of California along with cartoons and Latin American murals. McGee was inspired by Chilean protest murals during the Pinochet regime, which had to be executed with great speed because of their deeply non-permissive nature. The monochromatic nature of the black spray paint in many of his works, along with the quickness of the line, serve as a reminder...

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Biography

Barry McGee, also known as TWIST, was born in 1966 to Chinese-American and Irish-American parents. He began his artistic career in the 1980s, tagging the streets of San Francisco under various aliases––Ray Fong, Lydia Fong, Bernon Vernon, P.Kin, Ray Virgin, Twist, Twister, Twisty, and Twisto. Part of the Mission School Movement, McGee was an integral figure to street art developing on the West Coast. His work is influenced by the surf-skater-punk culture of California along with cartoons and Latin American murals. McGee was inspired by Chilean protest murals during the Pinochet regime, which had to be executed with great speed because of their deeply non-permissive nature. The monochromatic nature of the black spray paint in many of his works, along with the quickness of the line, serve as a reminder to the forbidden nature of graffiti. McGee discusses the speedy nature of street art: “if you have a good idea, you’re just like “Oh, this is a great idea; I’m putting it out on the street tonight!” And you try to get out there as fast as you can, and you know immediately the next day if it was a good idea or not.”

His use of grungy, nontraditional materials such as untreated plywood, empty liquor bottles, street signs, and scrap metal was typical for the Mission Street Movement. In regards to his graffiti, McGee explains, “I never wanted my graffiti to be absolute...I want a dialogue, so the most effective work is humorous because it engages the viewer, as does leaving the meaning a little bit unclear.” His work has been featured around the world, including at the 2001 Venice Biennale and a mural on Houston and Bowery in NYC. In 2012, the Berkeley Art Museum presented a retrospective of McGee’s work. He has also exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Hammer Museum, and Biennale de Lyon, France. His work is in the public collections of the MoMA. Additionally, he has collaborated with top brands such as Adidas and Uniqlo. McGee currently lives and works in San Francisco.

Artworks

1

Honduras, circa 1990

Related Categories

20th Century Art / Aerosol Paint / Aerosol Paint on Plywood / Animation/Cartoon/Comic Books / Art of the 1990s / Graffiti / Mural / Painting / Plywood / Social Issues / Socio-political Issues / Street Art / Using Unusual Tools and Materials

Curriculum Vitae

Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    We Were Here: East Coast x West Coast, Chase Contemporary, New York, NY

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Curriculum Vitae

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Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    We Were Here: East Coast x West Coast, Chase Contemporary, New York, NY