Toronto has a well deserved reputation for having Civic artistry, especially in the downtown core. One can see sculptures, murals and mobile installations not just at the Museums and major government buildings but also in the parks and businesses across all 5 Toronto Boroughs. But lurking in plain sight are some great art works in the form of graffiti murals throughout the city. Some are sponsored by local business associations or city agencies but quite a number are illicit drawings found on the backside of street and boulevard buildings. Some of these backside drawings are tolerated but not all. And the tendency for painting many times over leads to the impression of graffiti as defacement.
Fortunately, Toronto’s graffiti has a reached a stage of sponsorship and acceptance with key graffiti artist gaining commissions while establishing a tradition of classy styles. The result is gaining a more widespread legitimate presence in the whole metropolitan area. In the process, Dundas Street from Spadina all the way West out to Kipling has gained a well deserved reputation of hosting some amazing graffiti “shows”. This post will highlight some of the more provocative graffiti to be found along Dundas West.
But before we embark on a westward trip along Dundas, a word of caution. The problem is that many of the images were taken in 2014 and 2015 through to Spring of 2016. This means they are subject to “change” in non-sponsored areas as rival artists compete for “exhibition space”.
Graffiti off Dundas Around Spadina
Actually this is really a zone stretching from Spadina to Bathurst on the West and from Adelaide North to Nassau on the top edge of Kensington. Weaving in and out of the streets one can find Graffiti Alley, South Market Stands, and Alexandra Park murals are all part of the scene. Here is an old favorite just West of Spadina and South of Dundas:
The style is dark and sensual especially close to the downtown core. But the paint is already chipping away with a sandpaper-like surface along the vertical ridge.
Just west near Graffiti Alley is this edge view:
Again one can see the sandpaper surface as brick meets stucco in bold blue shaded and starred grafix fonts.
This graffiti portrait of Fast and Furious star Vinn Diesel is off our Dundas path and is just East of Bathurst and south of Queen West. This is another example of the generally great graffiti found in our core district. And just a few blocks south:
is this marine door media madness stretching for half a block and up the walls 12 to 14 feet. It is truly colorific!
And just down the lane are two wall costumes ready for Halloween. In sum, the downtown core just West of Spadina up and down from Dundas is the start of Graffiti Town.
Dundas from Trinity Bellwood to Roncesvalles
The next stretch of graffiti from Crawford and Dundas at the edge of Trinity Bellwood Park stretches all the way to Dundas and Roncesvalles and is chock full of Graffiti sites. But what makes these different, is that many are sponsored graffiti drawing and painting of the Dundas Street Business Association. And like the Alexandra Park murals the quality of the graffiti is very high:
Here the wall ad is promoting fitness for seniors and has a sense of whimsy as well as purpose. But look what happens to non-sponsored graffiti:
Defaced before it was finished as backstreet drawing space is at a premium.
In fact, this has influenced the Dundas Business Association in it choice of murals and art pieces:
Wooden form fits have become popular on some stretches of Dundas specifically because they are easy to repair.
But for the most part the sponsored graffiti, because it is out front in may cases has stood the test of time on the street. This mural is typical:
A clever commentary on environmental pollution which swims in dramatic fashion near Dovercourt and Dundas.And just ahead between Seridan and Brock are some outstanding mural works. Start on Sheridan itself and the style is classic:
So is the coloring in the murals – tints of blue and then ochre to orange. A very subdued color spectrum in comparison to most of the Dundas street graffiti. Here is another example:
This is a classic painting of the painter at work – but note the color ochre yellow and brown color gamut.
Now just across Dundas and attached to the Lula Lounge is a collection of strikingly colored murals. As you are approaching Brock Street turn South on a lane next to the Lula Lounge and see:
But this is only the start:
A little farther down finds the eyes:
and yet again, the walls come alive:
And at the end of the lane, turn left and around to a hedonistic heavy metal graffiti:
One can hear hard beating drums and brazen guitars echoing off the walls. Wow – what a concert of color and design.
Dundas West to Roncesvalles
The next stretch of Dundas did not have the spectacular graffiti galleries like those between between Sheridan and Brock but still had a lot of styles and designs to observe. For example proceeding West from Brock and heading toward Marguerita the off lanes produced some provocative surprises:
The styles were swirling, the colors bold and again lines of black like barbwire in places. Also there was a graffiti style with swirls of colors:
This was just down the way as stylized patterns predominated in the graffiti fare. But fortunately storefront shops caught the camera eye:
Even the posters were avant guarde.
as we proceeded up Dundas towards the Lansdowne bridge over the Go railway tracks. Here a new mecca of garage front graffiti showed new style and form:
Is it only me but are those red shadows of sexy in this graffiti?
In contrast there is no question of the fun and whimsy to be seen next:
Columbus Parkette is filled with fancy-full graffiti:
Straight out of Comic book mayhem
Or just prickly good humor
All around the parkette there is a goldmine of garage doors painted full and fancy:
Clearly the residents around the parkette have embraced the drawings and graffit seen in the park:
The designs are quite wide ranging – one wonders if there was a competition. But the people I ask are not in the know.
And if weren’t for the incoming rainstorm -this a project to find out more about.
Proceeding up from Spadina and meandering West by Northwest I make my case here for Dundas Street West being the graffiti mecca of Toronto. And I have just gotten to Roncesvalles leaving out the splendors of Bloor and Dundas or the Junction Mural Finds. But if you have a favorite spot in Toronto Town for graffiti just add a comment below.