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October 1st, 2018

Profiles in Innovation: SF Local Artist Barry McGee

As part of our nod to innovation, design, technology, and the renenegate spirit of a city that’s fertile for such growth, we want to recognize San Francisco innovators – those who take a chance on new ideas. Today, that person is SF native Barry McGee.

McGee is a San Francisco artist known for bringing themes of street art to the gallery world. His iconic, colorful, pattern-clad works have been found in humble parking garages and prestigious art galleries around the world.

The artist made famous for his vandalism was part of the Mission School movement of San Francisco in the 1990s. The graffiti boom and art movement valued DIY ethics and utilized raw materials supplied by urban landscapes. He was born in 1966 in San Francisco and attended Camino High School in South San Francisco. He later graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991.

"San Francisco is an expressionist city. It’s very expressive, with free forms. It’s this looseness in San Francisco which I like very much." -Barry McGee in a 2018 interview with Esquire

His early work and now iconic “Twist” tag gained him street-cred followed by international recognition. McGee has a knack for jumbling multiple images and patterns together, seen in galleries across the globe. He also is credited for popularizing paint dripping, a technique commonly used today. Iconic lettering, sagging character faces and the use of everyday materials are featured in his pieces.

He often paints his works on gallery walls directly, only to be painted over by the show’s close. The west coast influence is still evident in his work, as he often employs surfboards and skateboards as canvases.

[Most Innovative Art Galleries in San Francisco]

McGee’s work is also influenced by his late wife, Margaret Kilgallen, considered a central figure in the Mission School movement in the Bay Area. Kilgallen specialized in hand-painted letters, signage and folksy murals.

McGee has given street art a wider audience by bringing elements of the craft into galleries. Just as his street works can be accessed by those who don’t go to art galleries, he has made a move to bridge these worlds by showing the gallery world and art they may have overlooked. From his humble beginnings tagging railway cars around the Bay Area, his exhibits are now featured by Cheim & Read in New York City.

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Stanford Court Hotel loves its murals – that’s why our lobby is decked in art from different local artists. Visit us or plan a few drinks and dinner at Seven Stills Nob Hill to see what we’re talking about.

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