Recently @Christianluiten went to visit Barry McGee’s studio and had the opportunity to ask him some questions from the Collective. The resulting conversation took them from a shared love of tumbler to discussing the rise of NFT’s and some hints at what he has coming up.
C: What’s a typical day like for you?
B: If there are waves, I go surfing.
C: Where is your fav surfing spot & destination?
B: Probably here. Anywhere in the bay Area, Northern California. It’s remote there, cold water.
C: What time do you wake up?
B: 7ish, when you get older you just wake up. Less sleep. Older people just get up early and start doing things. So I go surfing and then I work. I got 3 different places I work at.
C: And you eat vegan you said?
B: No vegetarian so not super hardcore. My daughter is in school so I don’t have to worry about her. I got a dog. It’s really normal. It’s like an old person routine but I’m okay with it. It feels good and streamlined. If I have a deadline things get more intense.
C: Do you know what you gonna paint when you get into the studio in the morning?
B: I know what I have to paint.
C: So does it feel like a job?
B: It doesn’t feel like a job, I got the the best job in the world. I’m super fortunate.
C: Have you met the Osgemeos twins?
B: We’re gonna do something together and it’s all drawings. Like we do in sketchbooks. Have you met them?
C: I’d love to meet them.
B: I met them in 92, were you born yet? *both laugh*
C: No, I wasn’t.
B: Have you been to Brazil yet? You might need that. Can you do six months there? Both laugh.
C: *laughs* No of course not, I can’t do 6 months in Brazil.
B: One month?
C: So what artist's do you follow?
B: Peter Hurley, he’s down the street he’s amazing. There’s this artist Craig who works with cardboard. He’s not even in the art market. You know the area when you not really in it yet. You’re just making things and you don’t know why you making it.
C: I don’t know that area to be honest, have you been in that area?
B: I’m still in that area.
C: Come on, you’re a star!! *laughs*
B: No I’m not a star, I’ve had mild success.
C: Why are you not on social media?
B: I’m not into it. I came from a time when things were underground. I like the discovery of finding things underground. Not that I’m underground or anything like that. I know what social media is and how it works and it would just destroy me. I can’t go into it, I’ll get too into it. I don’t wanna talk with people. I’m not interested. I will talk with people when I run into them but I don’t wanna talk to strangers.
C: But you do like accessibility right?
B: Yes I like to show up, do things and then be able to leave. Fresh experiences all the time. I’ll do social media when it becomes unpopular again. I love tumbler!
C: Bro I’m from tumbler!! I learned about art through Tumbler and I still use it every day. Its my secret weapon, not so secret cause I tell everyone but no one is listening. B: No body wants to do the research.
C: Exactly, just open tumbler. I like what you’re saying, you wanna be in a world where nobody is at.
B: European tumbler is super good!
C: tumbler is important to get where we are now. Our generation *both laugh*, sorry my generation.
B: your generation for sure
C: Nobody was posting about themselves. It was just about their passions and interests.
B: I like the image dumps, it’s free. I’ll be looking at something and think; wtf is this? Pictures without context or reference.
C: What you think of NFT’s?
B: I like those things. I understand it. Somethings just look better electronically and through the internet.
C: What about the concept of ownership of a digital image?
B: I like things free, I like everything free. Except for my painting! *laughs* I'm from the graffiti generation. That’s like; this is is what you get man, this is it. But I like the grey area of what the hell is that thing. People buy this 250k dollar painting and put it in the headquarters of their company then write it off and sit on it for 8 years and then turn around. It’s a grey area. I like things grey. Art is the greyest area there is. It’s like; what’s this thing? Is that like garbage?
C: That’s exactly what NFT is right, question of what is art, what is valuable? I like that it shakes things up. I like the combination of things and feel like those that collect digital art will start collecting physical and the other way around.
B: Yeah I think so also.
C: It’s not like one or the other.
B: It’s kinda like video art was in the 70s and 80s. Nobody knew how to monetise video or performance art. But people are just doing it which I like.
C: Big difference between that is that vid & performance art was still very much about the artist expressing themselves and there was no money involved. What was good or bad was decided by critics. Cause its showcased to them. I feel with digital art the permitters of what is good and bad is different than what the curators of the Whitley would think. And that’s also gonna change cause this space is very fast moving. But the stuff that’s now really liked in the NFT space is not at all being liked in the art world. And people say it’s bad and a joke. But the NFT world doesn’t care about that and the opinion of the art establishment.
B: How amazing is that, they don’t even need to know. They don’t need the approval either. Kinda radical.
C: It's radical, very rebellious. And a time period we’ll think of in the history of art like we think of expressionism, impressionism, pop art, minimalism.
B: You thin its true pop art though? NFT’s, digital art its driven by popularity.
C: It is right?
B: It's a truer form of pop art, the truest that we have right now.
C: What I also like about it is that artists love it. A lot of people are against it but artists just love it.
B: It’s like a whole other grey area, that’s why artist love it.
C: Cause a lot of time with artist, they’re quite rebellious. They wanna shake up the system. Sometimes they get caught up in the system and its nice and comfortable so they stay in it. But I feel most of the art starts with wanting to get out of the comfort zone and trying something new. Like Peter Saul, now he’s pop art. He’s popular and people like him. But for a long time people didn’t care for his art at all. And he was like fuck this shit, fuck this Jackson pollock, fuck this Rothko.
B: *laughs* does he have social media?
C: Do you do sculptures?
B: A little bit.
C: Cause I see a lot of kinda sculptures in your work.
B: That’s like a commission, if someone commissions a sculpture. I like painting to be sculptural. I like super graphic things. I’m working on a papier-mâché project. I like things that are craft.
C: Would you ever do a sculpture edition?
B: Yeah maybe, do you guys do sculpture?
C: Yes we do quite a lot!
C: You’ve done a toy right?
B: Yeah in the early 2000's maybe.
C: What about a print?
B: Haven’t done it in a really long time.
C: Why not?
B: I just haven’t done it. I do like print making. Etching stuff like that.
C: What was your latest print?
B: I think almost 20 years ago. Oh no wait, I did one 10 years ago in Copenhagen.
C: So first print in 10 years, now that would be sick!!
Studio visits are always a great way to get to know artist’s better and McGee is just the most genuine and humble guy. If we would ever do a collaboration with him, what would you like to see most?
@acc_20GZFQQ8iZZ7xWWX9GDEz5JmzuH if it's possible, i would love to see a sculpture edition with the faces series... doesn't have to be bottles or ceramics. Barry's representation of the people on the street is just thoughtful and i would love to see him revisit that again 😍
12 months ago·
Thank you so much for this @acc_20GZFQQ8iZZ7xWWX9GDEz5JmzuH i'm so happy you asked my questions too 😍 what an amazing interview and goes to show Barry is such a cool and chilled guy.
12 months ago·
Thanks for the interview Christian! Insightful yet amusing. Love the part where he blatantly asked if you could do six months in Brazil 😂
12 months ago·