Barry McGee

THE BUDDY SYSTEM is the title of this floor to ceiling painting, drawing and sculptural installation. Initial admiration for the scope and appeal of the effort dissipates with the realization that homelessness and addiction have been reduced to a skillfully rendered cartoon. Individual suffering has been trivialized, although the presumed intent is empathy for the marginalized.

The artist is an art school graduate also known by his street name, Twist. He has been working on the streets of San Francisco, his native city, since the mid 1980’s. His images continue to endure on walls, mailboxes and other surfaces despite the continuous campaign of public authorities to paint them out. The artist earned street credibility through years of refusing to show his work in museums and commercial galleries, but evidently that posture is no longer appropriate.

In the words of the artist, his paintings “try to capture the overload of the senses that one might feel walking down the street of any one of our fine American cities.” He explains that “movement and gesture in both graffiti and the figure are base components of my work…I like the real experience of being there, a given space at a given time. I also like the evidence of the human hand at a place, at a time, and then gone into memory.”

And can you imagine one of these heads emblazoned on a T-shirt? Cool.

Tools of the trade, proudly displayed.

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