Critics’ Picks

Untitled #35, 2002.

Untitled #35, 2002.

San Francisco

Barry McGee

Anglim Gilbert Gallery
14 Geary Street
May 2–June 1, 2002

Fresh from mounting a major work at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, Barry McGee returns home to create a rare commercial-gallery installation that bristles with mixed emotions. Amid displays of his signature styles—wall paintings in a glossy crimson; smooth, cartoonish images of male heads; rot-gut liquor bottles painted with stylized images of grizzled street people—McGee pares down. Instead of the wall-to-wall coverage of older works, here there’s plenty of white space, albeit scuffed and battered, punctuated by dramatic outbursts of image and abstraction. A single, dripping burst of fluorescent spray paint is a punch to the wall, but one that serves as the background for a drawing of a pained face. In one corner, a funky mechanized figure repeatedly puts a paint roller to the wall, perhaps to cover up the graffiti, which reads “PRODUCE, CONSUME, DIE.” McGee has created a hearty, satisfying display of raw visual power and grace. The latter element also informs Dean Smith’s impressively dense abstract drawings in pencil, which spin into a mesmerizing image composed of simple acts that become complex, convincingly beautiful things.