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Alicia McCarthy

Alicia McCarthy was born in Oakland, California in 1969. She is known by her signature style of vibrantly colored, often woven, patterns on mixed media panels. Found wood and spray paint are two commonly used materials by the artist. McCarthy is a member of the Mission School, a movement that emerged in the 1990s in the Mission District of San Francisco. The movement encompasses a group of artists who take their inspiration from the urban culture of the Mission District of San Francisco, graffiti, and street art. The movement is accordingly associated with the use of non-traditional artistic materials and found objects. She engages with the immediate world around her, and uses a decidedly focused color palette on mixed-media panels. Sincere and intense but also playful, McCarthy transforms found wood surfaces into bursts, geometric blocks of color, and woven patterns that are often emphasized by text and spray paint. These “paintings” bear a sculptural weight that is juxtaposed by their deceptively simple mark and image making. Although visually abstract, McCarthy’s motifs ⏤ a weave or rainbow, for instance ⏤ are deeply personal and the works often include an indication of physical presence, such as the ring left by a coffee cup, the print from a boot, or a note written by the artist.

McCarthy received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1994 and an MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007. She has exhibited internationally and has received numerous awards, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SECA Award in 2017, and an Artadia Award in 2013. Her work is included in a number of important public and private collections, such as the Oakland Museum of California; Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California; the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA), Brussels; and the American Academy of Arts & Letters in New York City. Her work has been featured in Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California at The Oakland Museum of California, and Pierogi XX: Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition at Pierogi in New York. In 2013, McCarthy exhibited her work in Energy That Is All Around: Mission School with Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Barry McGee, and Ruby Neri at the Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute; and the Grey Art Gallery, New York University. In 2018, her work was featured in Alicia McCarthy and Ruby Neri / MATRIX 270 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The artist lives and works in Oakland.

Featured Work

All images courtesy of Alice Gallery, Brussels

Alicia McCarthy Mural in San Francisco
Alicia McCarthy in front of her SF mural