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Alicia McCarthy at Wexner Center for the Arts

McCarthy (b. 1969) is associated with the so-called Mission School that emerged among a group of students and others affiliated with the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1990s—before gentrification and the dot com boom and bust that radically shifted the landscape of the Mission District and city as a whole. These artists, including Ruby Neri, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, and Chris Johanson, embraced an “urban rustic” aesthetic. Her practice has also been shaped by her time at Humboldt State University, prior to studying in San Francisco, where she was part of another close-knit artist community with peers like Harrell Fletcher and Virgil Shaw.


McCarthy is best known for her abstract paintings that are influenced by punk and queer subcultures, graffiti, and folk art, and often incorporate found elements or recycled materials that pay homage to the surrounding community. These works—often featuring a nexus of interwoven, multihued lines—are at once entropic and controlled, intimate and tough. As the artist noted in a catalogue for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 2017 SECA Art Award: “I want my work to reflect all the beauty and pain of everyday life. All woven together and interconnecting to create [images] based in line and color.”

"What you see is what you see until it isn’t.…Never as simple as they first appear, these works breathe in a new way and, again, generously reveal secrets of their own."


McCarthy’s project here will utilize surplus paint left over from previous Wexner Center exhibition installations—an extension of her commitment to using available resources that resonates with Columbus’s own active DIY culture. The project will both enhance and contrast with the complex geometries of the center’s famed architecture.