McGee's brooding charcoal drawings from the sixties and seventies are more visually accessible than his later work. In these, people are rooted in their surroundings, perhaps trapped in them. He achieves this effect by coloring the paper in with black charcoal pencil, and then drawing with an eraser, lifting out all the negative space.
Bodies aren't sketched in; they emerge, giving the impression that they had always been there. Half a child's face, imprisoned between a girl's patterned skirt and the gridlike suggestion of a jungle gym, looks forlorn, wary, and weary--a common expression in these early drawings. One piece is a bird's-eye view of people walking down a sidewalk. Their silhouettes bleed into the long shadows they cast on the concrete. In Dialogue, several people huddle together, their black hands and heads resting on top of their patterned shirts. Some of the erased lines that mark the clothing continue into the background, disregarding the body's boundaries and putting the people in dialogue with the space. Although they're less flashy than the later works, the gravity of these drawings commands attention and makes them the dark highlight of the exhibit, which continues into the new year.
[Originally published in December, 2009.]