Barry McGee, you tricked me

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McGee clusters his works to recall the community of voices that have contributed to his artistic output.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CAITLIN DONOHUE

Granted I'm not out in Berkeley a ton, but I found it strange that someone had tagged an entire concrete side of the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive the very first week that thousands of impressionable minds were invading the UC Berkeley campus and waiting in half-block lines to enjoy a free grilled cheese sandwich in between classes.

"SNITCH," the 15-foot-tall graff screamed, with a bubble dotting its "I." Wow, I thought, proceeding to the media preview of Barry McGee a.k.a. Twist a.k.a. Lydia Fong a.k.a. Ray Fong's first mid-career retrospective (opening today, through Dec. 9) -- someone's not big on Twist.

But duh, everyone (everyone in the Bay who would tag a museum wall, at least) is big on Twist. The "SNITCH" tag, just like the massive red piece that obscured the museum's glass front doors, was engineered by McGee and his some-dozen team of be-cardiganed, baseball cap flat-brimmed artistic cohorts, many of whom were still bustling about on Thursday trying to get the exhibition ready for the opening reception mere hours away. 

He came up earning tagger cred for his masterful tags and cartoon anti-heroes all over the streets of SF, but the hyper-successful and hyper-problematic museum-street art confluence is a crossroad that Twist has stood firmly atop for decades now. Of course he's the first to tag his own opening.

I'm not going to go into too much depth about the exhibit here, because that would make the paper piece I'm going to write about it in a few weeks totally pointless, but know that it is the most ambitious spread BAM/PFA has ever undertaken (how the hell did they get that van in there? Curator Larry Rinder had no answers for the passel of press assembled at the preview), in terms of mediums it is wildly diverse, and you will probably never see any thing like it because the days of astronomical funding for art are dead and many of the rarely-seen Twist projects -- he hasn't had a Bay Area solo show since 1994 -- took stacks to produce.

If you're looking for a good moment to check out the show, I suggest that you don't do it during university passing time unless you dig flip-flops, and that you coordinate instead with one of the rad events that BAM/PFA has scheduled to run in accordance with the show. Here's a couple: 

L@TE: Friday Nights @ BAM/PFA

Sept. 21, curator Larry Rinder in conversation with Jeffrey Deitch 6-7pm; Lawrence Rinder; Devendra Banhart, Justin Hoover, and Chris Treggiari 7:30-9pm, $7. McGee chats with the guy who funded his biggest splashes, Deitch, and exhibit curator Rinder. The artist's SF Art Institute fellow alum Barnhardt brings his wacky brand of folk to the L@TE night event, with Hoover and Treggiari slinging their street-based cuisine. 

Oct. 19, Jim Prigoff: "Graffiti: A History in Photographs" 6pm; T.I.T.S. and Erick Lyle (Scam) 7:30-9pm, $7. Prigoff, along with peers Martha Cooper, Jon Naar, Jack Stewart, Henry Chalfant, traveled the world when graff was still in its young'n stages, snapping shots of a youth-based art form that had yet to run through the commercial grinder. Tonight, he runs through some of his archival images of Bay greats like DREAM, and of course, Twist. Zinester Lyle and grrrl mob quartet T.I.T.S. raise a rebel yell later that night at L@TE. 

Nov. 16, Peggy Honeywell and Bill Daniel 7:30-9pm, $7. Visual artist Clare Rojas, a.k.a. folk singer Peggy Honeywell shares an affinity with partner McGee for aliases, and is sure to turn out a hot show (check out our 2011 interview for her woman-centric, quietly lovely artwork). Bill Daniels tracks indie film and hobos with his "dirt lot cinema."

Barry McGee

Fri/24-Dec. 9

Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive

2626 Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-0808

bampfa.berkeley.edu

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