Hi everyone. In case you missed it, my blog has moved to a new address. Come take a look!
Check out this collection of shots I’ve taken of LISTEN’s birdie, beginning with what was one of my favourite paintings on Queen West until it (recently) got painted over.
LISTEN does some pretty epic, human-sized throw-ups. Throw-ups are also known as “fill-ins”: rather than quickly painting an outline of an image or word in one colour (known as a graffiti bomb), a throw-up adds an extra step by filling in a spray-painted outline with a second colour of paint:
Let’s take a look at some sweet shots I’ve snapped of LISTEN’s birdie over the past few months.
I hope to write a more in-depth article on the different forms of graffiti paintings, and the hierarchies and internal politics that go along with graffiti writing. I once saw two graffiti writers physically fighting over a wall in the middle of the day. For now, here’s a selection of some of the other shots I’ve snapped of LISTEN’ bird over the past year:
Part of me feels like I’m domesticating these graffiti paintings by cataloging them and putting them up online; the viewer can’t see what lies outside the frame, and seeing these shots online is nothing compared to discovering them by chance in real life.
People love street art (portraits, stencils, cartoon characters, etc.), but for some reason, when it comes to letter-based graffiti, many scoff or turn away. Well, if you’ve written off graffiti letters before (God knows I did when I first started graffiti watching) check out this mural in Toronto’s Chinatown:
Goddam that’s nice.
Some of the best pieces of art are incredibly complex ones; it often requires work to access the best pieces of music, literature, film, philosophy, sculpture, etc. While I don’t yet understand what this mural is saying, I still find it intricate, fascinating, and beautiful.
It’s normal to fear what we don’t understand, especially when it’s a new art form, and an illegal one at that. But not all laws are just, and it’d be a crime not to let this kind of colour happen.
I’ve yet to get an unobstructed view of this piece, but it’s so sweet that I simply couldn’t sit on it one day longer. I’ll include some more shots soon, hopefully in a more in-depth post on graffiti letters and how they work.
Found these “DRIVING” stickers up on stop signs at opposite ends of Bloor and Concord Ave.:
So ya, stop driving downtown people. Doesn’t this guy, below, look like he’s having more fun anyway?
This is a wheatpaste. Printed or silk screened onto paper and then stuck to a wall with a simple adhesive, wheatpastes are often destroyed quickly by the weather during the winter.
Now that it’s spring, expect to see more wheat pastes up.
Have a happy week people: might be a fun week to get out the bike!
It’s no news that the Junction and its environs have undergone considerable change over the past years. At Landsdowne and Bloor, traditionally working class communities are being displaced by a downwardly mobile but creative working-middle class.
To the North, near Dupont and Landsdowne, obsolete industrial spaces that remain suitable for residential use are being converted into artist studios, lofts, and now, condominium developments. For example, the condo-to-be pictured below fulfills every gentrification cliche by promising a Metro and Shoppers downstairs to compete with the working class Coffee Time across the street:
Catering to upper middle class penchants for President’s Choice cookies and prescription meds, all the neighbourhood needs now is a douchey, overpriced coffee shop to commodify the dire poverty of the displaced creative poor–oh wait, that already happened. Unfortunately, “urban renewal” will likely mean more bad news for the working poor and immigrant working class that call this neighborhood home, but good news for wealthy property developers who will cash in big on their displacement. So it goes.
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Amidst the cranes and dust of condo developments, there is a good news story developing just West of here on Dupont near Campbell Ave.. Here, an urban renewal project is underway that only a street artist in a suit and tie could pull off..
Created by international street artist Joel Richardson, the project’s transformed a dilapidated concrete underpass into a sophisticated street art mural.
Richardson’s mural adds to this sixty-year-old concrete eyesore as part of a broader renewal of public spaces initiated by street artist around the world. A form of down-up urban revitalization, street art has increasingly become the go-to for visual artists worldwide. Indeed, graffiti art, in its diversity of forms and manifestations, has arguably become the most important movement to hit the art world in generations.
As for this specific Junction underpass, I haven’t seen anything quite like Richardson’s Suitman mural (especially not in Toronto). The mural is dwarfing in scale, spanning the length of a long city block on both its north AND south sides.
The South side of the mural presents an endless line of spray painted stencils. Clad in suit and tie, these stenciled images of businessmen link corporate culture to the dissolution of individualism. Our worship of corporate growth is also likened to the excesses of religious worship, as each figure sports an ironic halo that is reminiscent of Byzantine-era iconography.
With their right hands up as if performing an oath, each Suitman pledges himself to the Bhuddaesque deity of corporate greed that is the centrepiece of the mural:
On this part of the wall, the Suitman playfully equates businessmen with prison inmates, a suggestion of white collar crime that’s complemented by the green bars of the underpass railings. Joel also claims that the image below is not intended to look like Stephen Harper, though I suspect this is just a ploy to secure public funding.
And while the identical businessmen imply an erasure of individualism, a Madmenesque nostalgia for the suit-and-tie aesthetic is also present in these paintings. Blurring the lines between irony and authenticity, Richardson’s effigies are surprisingly beautiful.
“I don’t think the free market should be thrown away,” Joel tells me. “I just want the capitalist system to be reformed in a way that encourages an equal playing field.” The mural is slated for completion this summer.
One obstacle is that GOON, who is a talented graffiti writer in his own right, has reserved part of the North underpass wall for himself to paint on. Joel seems to have left the signature up for now as a sign of respect to GOON, so it should be interesting to see whether or not GOON makes use of the space or if Joel continues his own work over it. Much of being a graffiti artist means navigating a competitive turf war over prime locations (more on this in the coming weeks).
As for Joel, my interview with him took on some unsuspected twists and turns. For one thing, he appeared in character, in a suit with sunglasses… I hope to publish a full interview with him sometime later this year.
As always, all comments are welcome below, and if you have a story to tell or tip for new graffiti that’s gone up, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPUD has coopted a billboard to post another striking anti Rob Ford image. This just in time for the transit debates ending at city hall today. Snapped this quickly on my way to work today:
The poster is at Queen and Fennings St., near Wicked nightclub, which is incidentally where 3 artists were arrested a few months ago for painting “S_U”.
Check this street art before it gets taken down, though it may last for longer than usual because the billboard belongs to an old garage no longer in business. For an in-depth look at SPUD’s work, click here.