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Alias Barry McGee

Barry McGee

Working under his own name in galleries and museums, McGee is known for his “wall clusters” evoking scenes of street life and made up of dozens or hundreds of drawings, paintings, fragments, and found objects hung in old wooden frames. “I see a really good tag on a building, a man passed out in the middle of the street, a couple hugging, a cop arresting a panhandler,” he says. “I’m interested in how all these things are happening in one block.”

Twist

McGee’s primary persona since 1984, Twist specializes in caricaturing people on the city’s streets, loosely rendering them in spray paint on concrete. “The aim is to maintain the energy created by disturbance or excitement in the street,” McGee says. “To carry on pissing peo- ple off, challenging their ownership.”

Lydia and Ray Fong

Taking off from McGee’s Chinese American heritage, this couple runs an imaginary mom-and-pop shop for which the artist has been creating dollar store–inspired merchandise and signage for the past several years. According to McGee, the Fongs are “less associated with this popular trend of ‘street art,’ which is currently clogging the galleries.”

Bernon Vernon

In tribute to old-school hobos like Bozo Texino, McGee uses this name when he draws in oil stick on freight trains.
Robbie Pimple

A bail bondsman doing business in simulated urban wastelands strewn with overturned trucks covered in graffiti, this persona has stood in for McGee on large-scale gallery installations since 2000. 

Most painters will do almost anything for a little name recognition.  But McGee, San Francisco’s most famous and influential graffiti artist, has preferred to hide his work behind nearly a dozen monikers, each with a radically different persona and style. Changing names is “a way to test his own credibility,” explains Berkeley Art Museum curator Dena Beard, who helped organize a two-decade retrospective of the artist’s work that begins in August.  Since these disguises can also be downright bewildering, here’s a guide to McGee’s favorites.     Aug 24 - Dec 9, Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, bampfa.berkeley.edu