Thursday, June 01, 2006

Guerilla gallery tour

Pascal explains

A small group of psychogeographers braved the threatening skies yesterday, and were rewarded with a glimpse into the world of Toronto's street art scene. Our guide was Pascal, who used to be a "respectable" gallery painter but who, a couple of years ago, decided that the whole culture of paintings that hang on walls has become hopelessly moribund, and graffiti is where the really vital work in painting is happening these days. He apprenticed himself to a "crew" of more experienced artists, and has been learning the ropes.

The graffiti world runs on a complicated set of rules of etiquette, and has its own lingo. To "front" somebody is to paint on top of one of their pieces: that's a provocation & will cause that person or crew to have a "beef" with you & paint over your stuff in return. Crews sometimes go out together and do a "crew hit," several pieces close together. A "bomb" or "throwup" is a quick piece done in a "hot spot," ie a place where you're likely to be seen & chased away. A "wall" can take several hours & is usually done in a "chill spot," where you're likely to be left alone. In a good chill spot on a good night, there might be three or four artists working at the same time -- a rare chance to meet face to face.

Pascal took us to an excellent chill spot -- the railway siding south of Gladstone Ave., which has been covered with really elaborate wall pieces. He told us about the guys and crews behind each of them. There was a piece by a guy named Alpha who had died at 19, hit by a train. Pascal said anyone who fronted that would get kicked out of the scene.

It started to rain a bit. The light was beautiful, the air finally cooling down. Little snails came out onto the dirt path, leaving silvery trails and waving their eyes on stalks. The rain got heavier, the sky turned red, and we went to the Gladstone for pitchers of cider.

More graffiti walk photos on flickr. If you're interested in graffiti and you live in Toronto, you're in luck: the ReSurface festival is this Saturday, June 3.


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