Barry McGee operates as an artist in several contexts: well known as a graffiti writer he has also worked extensively in museums and art galleries across the world.

McGee lives and works in his native San Francisco where he began his career as a graffiti writer in the early 1980s. Working under the tag TWIST he has become a leading figure in graffiti.

Since the 1970s, graffiti artists have crossed over into the commercial and institutional art world, most noticeably in New York during the early 1980s when there was a particular focus on graffiti artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. McCee first made the transition to working in galleries during the mid 1990s, after this ‘graffiti craze’, and developed a practice that is connected, but separate from his work as TWIST.

The installations McCee has produced do not merely reproduce his street writing in the gallery space but find an equivalent for what he has described as the ‘melancholia, humour and sensory overload of urban street life’. Images in his work are often painted over, scrubbed out in a way that mimics the continuous erasure of graffiti in the streets by the authorities – removing the ‘problem’ but at the same time creating a reminder of its existence. McGee paints on anything available to him: overturned trucks, discarded bottles, scrap paper and gallery walls. Comic, sad faces appear throughout the work and watch as despairing observers to the chaos of urban life.

Untitled, 2002
Mixed media installation
Commissioned by Henry Moore Foundation Contemporary Projects
Exhibited at Pleasant Street Board Room