Artist Barry McGee On His New Installation



San Francisco-born artist Barry McGee recently unveiled his second exhibition at PRISM, an LA gallery that will be displaying his works until June 30th. McGee has always been compelled towards mark making, imprinting his sensibility on available surfaces from thin sheets of luan to the urban architecture that surrounds him. For nearly two decades, McGee has held an iconic place in contemporary art where the pulse of his works point to the perpetually renewed and decaying landscape of art, advertising and the highly graphic. Here, McGee breaks down the meaning behind his second appearance at PRISM.

Life+Times: You integrate your visual language, with its striking geometric compositions, color fields and recurring characters into a site-specific installation that converts the gallery into a dynamic and vibrant space. Why did PRISM seem like a natural fit?
Barry McGee
: It’s one of the most dynamic spaces I have seen in Los Angeles. It has the feel of a museum or kunsthalle in Europe. I also like the upstairs space for more intimate works and sculptures. It’s all these things combined that make a space dynamic. The outdoor fireplaces are a nice touch also. I was very excited to interact with the space.

L+T: It’s stated that viewers are immersed in ‘purposeful chaos’ when viewings your paintings, prints, sculptures, and photographs. What exactly does this mean?
: I have been interested in combining imagery that one might process in an urban setting. Most of these situations can be found on any city block, in any American city. A wayward man passed out on the street, a fantastic tag on a building, a couple hugging, a pile of interesting garbage. It all informs my process of working.

L+T: You often work with what has been called ‘available surfaces’ – imprinting your sensibility onto these spaces. Why is this so appealing to you?
: There is nothing more interesting to me than dealing with surface/space/light as it is while standing directly in front of the space. It actually is the most fascinating part of installing for me as anything can happen. It also sets up a bit of anxiety as I never know how something is going to look – sometimes five minutes before a show opens.

L+T: Are there any common themes throughout this installation?
: Yes there are many. The downstairs is my mature work. It has many elements that are dispersed throughout the entire exhibition, but are presented in a more mature fashion. The upstairs space I wanted to feel more like a recreation center in Jamaica. Many of the same ideas are presented but in a looser, more freeform manner, if you will. It’s a bit immature for certain. Its just not something I’m quite ready to shake off at this point in my life.

L+T:: What are your thoughts on the Los Angeles art scene? Are there any artists (either established or emerging) that you have your eye on? If so – why?
: The LA art scene is so vibrant at this moment in time – it’s so wide open and so dynamic. It’s how I imagine Berlin must be like. I really like Chris Lux, Gus Thompson, Ruby Neri and Sterling Ruby.

Photo Credit: PRISM