In Graffiti Alley, Toronto’s artists put to shame New York abstract expressionists.


One of the alleys in the area known as Graffiti Alley, looking north to Queen Street West.

Graffiti Alley, which actually includes several laneways, is located between Queen and Richmond Streets, and can be accessed from either Portland or Augusta Streets. This past weekend, I witnessed a young artist working on an installation that covers two walls of a four-storey building. It is an amazing feat. The theme of the work is the “the sea,” so the artist employs a bright blue for the background of the mural. Sea creatures, real and imaginary, swim across the walls as they frolic in their underwater world. The colours chosen for the sea creatures are vibrant, the lines free-flowing and skilfully executed. I talked with an artist who is employed teaching graphic arts at the University of Toronto. He saw the graffiti artist’s original sketches and expressed the opinion that though the sketches were highly skilled, the actual work was much freer and flowed more effortlessly across the brick walls.

When I compared the work and talent that is required to create such a piece of art, I realized that the artist I was watching put to shame New York’s abstract expressionists, who splash and dash paint with little purpose or skill other than to make money.  It’s not that these artists are not skilled, they are masters of creativity. It is simply that they have chosen not to use their skills, knowing they can sell their canvases for thousands of dollars without spending much time on them. After completing one of their canvases, they then invent pretentious but meaningless verbiage to justify a canvas that at the most required only a morning’s work. The only reason it requires that amount of time is that the canvases are large.

When anyone challenges them about their efforts, they retreat behind the time-worn excuse – “You do not understand art.” This is the old story of the “Emperor has no Clothes.” Someone needs to tell these artists that their work is naked as far as skills are concerned. However, no gallery dealer is going to unmask them, there is too much money to be made in commissions. The true creativity of the Abstract Expressionists is not art, it is marketing.

If you enjoy the abstract expressionist, that is your right and I defend your right. But to call it art is questionable. A drop of oil dropped on water produces fantastic colours and beautiful lines. But is it art? I feel that the answer is no, as no skill is required. Everyone has a different opinion on art, and perhaps that is one of the reasons that it is so fascinating. One person’s garbage is another person’s delight. However, visit Graffiti Alley and judge for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised. Then again, you might hate it!



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If you visit the new installation in Graffiti Alley, view a few of the other 2012 art that adorns the walls in the laneway. The scene is forever changing.  Below are a few examples of other artists’ works.

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Post about the 2011 exhibition of the Abstract Expressionists at the AGO.

To view posts about the 2012 TIFF:

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2 thoughts on “In Graffiti Alley, Toronto’s artists put to shame New York abstract expressionists.

  1. Any idea of how to contact Uber5000 to commission a work in a Toronto residential lane way? My son is a huge fan and we’d love to surprise him with a birthday gift of a commissioned work.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for contacting me. Sorry to be so slow in answering you, but I have been out of the country for the past two weeks.

      I do not know how to contact Uber5000 personally, although his web site might tell you. Simply google Uber5000. I have spo0ken to him several times, but it was while he was in a laneway painting a mural. I would vey much like to learn more about him.


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