Walking into Ratio 3’s expansive space, it is immediately apparent that China Boo both expands on and reprises McGee’s familiar motifs and themes. There is the meticulously rendered sad-faced loser, present since the artist’s days as an undergraduate at SFAI. Most of the paintings on view feature the intense geometric patterns in optically dizzying color combinations now associated with his work, possibly all descended from a decorative motif on some sheet music McGee found dumpster-diving near his studio one day, many years ago. There are allusions to surf/ skater/graffiti culture, most prominently in the form of actual surfboards; a giant weathered stack of them towers over visitors in the side gallery, while a familial-looking cluster in various sizes and shapes, embellished with patterns and cartoony figures, leans against the wall in the main room. Other works include elements like the ‘Western’ lettering style also favored by the late artist Margaret Kilgallen and bursts of spray paint, or the letters DFW (Down For Whatever).
Whatever the show’s mysterious title actually signifies, in the middle of this highly desirable assortment of paintings, sculpture, arrangements of painted tchotchkes and strange little furniture, there’s a giant, disintegrating concrete — blob, for lack of a better word. It doesn’t really seem wrong that it’s in the room;
installations of McGee’s work have always included such surprises, balancing his sharply rendered image and text with worn bits of reality. This one, though, turns out to be an immense concrete baby head made by an artist named Dave Hardy and installed guerilla-style at SF’s Warm Water Cove, a site of DIY punk music shows and graffiti art, in 2000. McGee liked it and rescued it from the site as the cove was cleaned up over the last decade or so.
here and there, with three roundish squirts of spray paint and six sad-sack faces, all applied after the panels were assembled together. Ghostlike, each of these slightly transparent additions crosses seams or straddles corners of adjacent panels. Their range in size suggests a kind of recession into space that the patterns beneath them flatly deny, making a joke about abstraction without revealing what the punch line might be.