Alicia McCarthy

2017 SECA Art Award Recipient

  • Interwoven colored stripes against a beige background

    Alicia McCarthy, Untitled, 2017; collection of Joachim and Nancy Hellman Bechtle

  • A rainbow striped X against two red, stacked horizontal canvases

    Alicia McCarthy, Untitled, 2015; private collection

  • Stacked horizontal color blocks against a speckled brown canvas

    Alicia McCarthy, Untitled, 2016; collection of Cassandra and Paul Hazen

An undeniable energy imbues the work of Alicia McCarthy (b. 1969). Her compositions, whether painted or drawn, are constructed through a repetitive process of mark making, a sensitivity to hue and pigment density, and an openness to the distinct character of each gesture. Colors are never used directly from the tube; each is mixed just before application and determined by the preceding tone. Highlighting the imperfections of her materials, she embraces drips and splatters and does not overwork her lines or surfaces. She approaches her “positive” textile-like images (with filled-in lines) and “negative” weaves (with filled-in ground) the same way: beginning in the middle and expanding outward. She often incorporates friends’ work into her installations, including drawings by ORFN (Aaron Curry), a prolific and influential Bay Area graffiti artist who passed away last year.


Best known as a key figure in the legendary Mission School, Alicia McCarthy has been associated with a long lineage of artist-based communities. These communities have shaped her collaborative sensibility and preference for modest materials.

In Conversation

In Conversation with Alicia McCarthy

SFMOMA Baker Street Foundation Associate Curator of Photography Erin O’Toole interviews Alicia McCarthy in her studio.


Artist Alicia McCarthy explains her repetitive painting practice, in which she weaves bands of colors into tapestry-like patterns. She discusses her commitment to the “accessibility of making” and her interest in the purity of reducing compositions to color and line.

Exhibition Catalogue

Download a PDF of the exhibition catalogue essay and conversation with the artist.

Related Content