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From Graffiti Alley to 'Beautiful Buffalo Week': A Toronto diary

Last week, I took a short trip up to Toronto to write about "Beautiful Buffalo Week," a series of events at the small storefront gallery known as Videofag. I also took the opportunity to check out the city's Tecumseth Street galleries and to explore its famed Graffiti Alley, which stretches westward from Spadina Avenue for a kilometer or so a half-block south of Queen Street.

Tecumseth Street Galleries

The four Tecumseth Street galleries, which made appearances at last year's Echo Art Fair, are tucked away behind industrial facades on a largely residential street. They seem curiously designed not to be noticed, and I walked right past the Susan Hobbs Gallery, Georgia Scherman Projects and the Birch Libralato Gallery without even realizing they were there. Once I doubled back, though, there was plenty of great stuff to see.

Last Thursday, most of the galleries were wrapping up their shows. Susan Hobbs was showing a quiet, alluring series of paintings by Toronto-based artist Patrick Howlett (below) and preparing for its current group exhibition, "Simple Present, Future Anterior: a 20th anniversary show."

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Work by Patrick Howlett in Susan Hobbs Gallery.

Birch Libralato was showing a compelling series of photographs by Mitch Robertson, whose series of photographs of a structure some claim is the most photographed barn in America (below) is a clever, scientific exploration of the shifting color palette of photographs throughout the 20th century. The gallery was also showing work by Shaan Syed, and both exhibitions are on view through March 3.

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Work by Mitch Robertson in Toronto's Birch Libralato gallery.

Things were in the midst of a changeover at Georgia Scherman Projects, so I ventured down to Diaz Contemporary, where a commanding series paintings by the accomplished Victoria, British Columbia-based artist Robert Youds were on view. The show, called "Robert Youds: handmade ultramarine mantra," featured a series of sumptuous paintings that had the look of film strips made of wood that had been photocopied, screen-printed and then overlayed with prismatic colors:

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"Malcolm Lowery's Shack," a painting by Robert Youds. Photograph by Toni Hafkenscheid, courtesy of Diaz Contemporary.

The back room of the gallery contained a series of curious Op Art-esque experiments by Youds, which visitors can spin (though, maddeningly, there are no instructions to do so, limiting the work to those who already know the "secret" of the work and would dare to break the rules by touching the art). I took a little video of a spinning piece, which, if you peek at long enough, begins to play interesting tricks on the brain:

Graffiti Alley

Toronto's Graffiti Alley has long provided a legal avenue for graffiti artists to practice their art. As such, it has long drawn some of the best graffiti artists from around the world and turned into a popular outdoor gallery, always shifting and changing depending on the inspiration of the artists who visit it. I walked down only a small stretch of the alley -- some version of which exists in dozens of cities and is desperately needed in Buffalo -- and snapped a few pictures:

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"Beautiful Buffalo Week"

Finally, I made my way over to Videofag -- a DIY arts space in the vein of Buffalo's Sugar City with a mission to present work by queer artists or about queer issues -- to check out a video program curated by Buffalonians Julian Montague and Jax Deluca. The selections, from a lovely poetic reflection on Buffalo's abandonment by Stephanie Gray to an inspired self-portrait/Rust Belt fever dream by Pat McElna, were impressive. (You can read the program, which includes the text of Gray's poem, here.) I also really enjoyed Seth Amman and Billy Erhard's "Cargill Grain Animator," which you can watch here:

Cargill Grain Animator from seth amman on Vimeo.

The evening ended in appropriately tongue-in-cheek fashion with a performance by the truly singular rapper Jack Topht, who I caught on video presenting his hilarious, Buffalo-centric alternative history of punk rock, dance music and rap:

 

--Colin Dabkowski

tagged

Art | Music | Theater
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