Frieze NY: Cheim & Read Presents Artwork By Barry McGee

Detail of Untitled (2013), Barry McGee. Photo: Sara Rosen.

Bumping into a Barry McGee artwork is like seeing an old friend. All pretenses slip away, and it’s back to where it’s always been. Born in 1966, McGee hails from San Francisco, representing the Bay Area on the global stage since the early 1990. McGee came from a place and a time that vibrated with fresh, new energies. The neighborhood of 16th and Mission had a style all its own, a style that always felt a little intimate. It was felt a little something like having a beer with a rather engaging introvert. It was discreet yet compelling in a sensually stimulating sort of way, as if to say, “Pardon me. Art right this way.”

Detail of Untitled (2013), Barry McGee. Photo: Sara Rosen.

McGee’s ease and familiarity in a wide array of media, from painting, printmaking, and installation art, took his work from the walls of the streets to the halls of museums, galleries, and expositions around the world. It is this very ability to translate and transcend that makes McGee’s work refreshing, no matter what setting. A current work, Untitled (2013) hangs at Cheim & Read, booth C38.

Situated within a gallery that represents Diane Arbus, Louise Bourgeois, Don Bachardy, and Robert Mapplethorpe, McGee is in fine company. His work hangs on the outside of the booth, away from the visual hum of “Heap” (2012), an installation of 7 LED signs with amber, blue, free, and red biodes created by Jenny Holzer. McGee’s work is a quiet, contemplative relief—in more ways than one.

Detail of Untitled (2013), Barry McGee. Photo: Sara Rosen.

His quirky collection of shapes and figures line the wall in an amorphous grid, creating a quiet visual rhythm that uncannily reminds me of a Henry Mancini song. Perhaps “Baby Elephant walk,” or some other groovy ‘60s tune, something that takes me away from it all and puts me in a relaxed and inspired mood. It is the intricate patters painted with a careful hand and a calm mind that allows the gentle interplay of colors, shapes, and lines to gentle enrapture me, like a drag from a really good joint. It’s so much so that I’m forgetting where I am and why I am here. I just want to stare at this all day, just take it all in. It’s times like this that I rue not having the funds to properly collect art.

Also: Frieze New York 2015: The Run Up