A Toronto artist working in Graffiti Alley puts to shame New York’s Abstract Expressionists.


One of the laneways that crosses Graffiti Alley. This view looks north to Queen Street and is where the latest installation has appeared. 

Rush Lane, commonly referred to as Graffiti Alley, is one of several laneways located in the Queen Street West area, west of Spadina Avenue. Graffiti Alley, the major alley of the district, is located between Portland Avenue and Augusta Street. Originally the laneway stretched from Augusta Street, west to Bathurst. However, the new Loblaws Store at Queen and Portland now occupies part of the alley.

This past weekend, I witnessed a young artist working on an installation that includes two of the walls of a four-storey building. It is an amazing feat. Because the theme of the work is the “the sea,” a bright blue has been employed 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 teaches 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 is much freer and flows effortlessly across the brick walls that are employed as a canvas.

When I compare the work and talent required to create this new piece of art in Graffiti Alley with New York’s abstract expressionists, I feel that he puts them to shame. The Abstract Expressionists splash around paint with little purpose or skill.  It’s not that these artists are not skilled, they are truly great artists. It is simply that for the “abstract” phase of their career, they have chosen not to use their skills. Why should they when they can sell their canvases for thousands of dollars without spending much time on them?

After they completed their canvases, they invented pretentious but meaningless verbiage to justify a canvas that in many instances required only a morning’s work. The only reason it required that amount of time is that the canvases are large. Then, when anyone challenges them about their efforts, they retreat behind the time-worn excuse – “You do not understand art.” PLEASE – there is nothing to understand. 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 Abstract Impressionist artists true skill is  in 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 may hate it.

Photos below are of the new installation that has been commissioned for Graffiti Alley



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If you visit the new installation in Graffiti Alley, view some of the other 2012 art that adorns the walls in the laneway.  Below are a few examples.

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


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