Five Toronto muralists you may encounter

Inspired by Keith Haring and KAWS, journey into Toronto's street art scene with these five artists

Moises Frank 1

Image courtesy of Moises Frank. Funded by Street Art Toronto.

New York City subculture in the late 20th century was an incubator for global icons of art – two of those being Keith Haring and KAWS. Though their respective oeuvres are distinctly different, they rose to prominence through the underground New York City graffiti scene of the 80s (Haring) and 90s (KAWS). Their early works exemplify the guerilla-style, public art tradition of subverting well-known imagery to present alternative messages. The AGO exhibitions Keith Haring: Art is For Everybody and KAWS: Family – both currently on view – prove that the ethos of graffiti culture has become a staple in the world of high art.       

When it comes to graffiti and street art in Canada, Toronto might be the mecca. For decades, the city has had a long tradition of graffiti writers, muralists and public art interventionists. Aside from popular locations like Queen Street West’s Graffiti Alley or lower River Street’s Underpass Park, a spectrum of street art and artists can be found across the Greater Toronto Area. Here are five you should know about.        

 

Elicser  

Elicser

Mural by Elicser, Sight and Mediah. Image courtesy of Elicser. Funded by Street Art Toronto.

For many, Elicser is a name that has become synonymous with Toronto street art over the last decade. The prolific muralist’s signature pieces are unmistakable, accenting neighbourhoods across the GTA with vibrant colour palettes, uniquely emotive characters and thought-provoking concepts. His practice, which also features studio painting and drawing, is vast and shows major potential for evolution into the worlds of fine art and installation. 

Check out the above work on Dundas Street West at Beatrice Street.  

 

Philip Cote  

Philip Cote

Philip Cote, The Original Family, 2019. Photograph by Bryan Taguba

A member of Moose Deer Point First Nation, multidisciplinary artist, sun dancer and historian, Philip Cote has painted large-scale murals throughout the GTA for over two decades. Created through the lens of traditional Anishinaabe storytelling, his striking murals are marked by their vibrant display of colour and depiction of multiple characters and realms involved in an intricate narrative. From Cote’s perspective, each of his public works is a reclamation of land and a beacon of truth that connects to pre-colonial Turtle Island. 

The above work can be found on Jarvis Street just south of Dundas Street.  

 

Anya Mielniczek  

Anya Mielniczek

Mural by Anya Mielniczek

The Toronto-based muralist takes an environmentally-centric approach to art making, often incorporating upcycled waste and various found materials into her work. Mielniczek’s large-scale pieces are usually surreal portraits of women and are defined by their nature motifs and playful use of colour. Her works can be found across the GTA in various of public spaces and surfaces.         

 

Moises Frank  

Moises Frank 2

Image courtesy of Moises Frank

Moises Frank (Luvsumone) is an emerging Toronto graffiti artist whose practice is defined by his striking mural work. Frank is self-described as a graffiti purist, meaning he uses no tape, stencils, projections, brushes or chalk. All his pieces are done freehand, using only an aerosol can. His signature style of vibrant portraits and letter work have garnered acclaim from critics and peers, as he is poised to become a well-recognized presence in Toronto street art.    

 

Ness Lee  

Ness Lee mural

Image by Bret Kelly, courtesy of Ness Lee. Funded by Street Art Toronto.

Though many know the multidisciplinary artist from their illustrations and sculptural work, this former AGO x RBC Artist-in-Residence maintains a distinct and stand-out presence in the cannon of murals in the GTA. They have manifested their intimate, round-edged, black and white character illustrations into some of the city’s most interesting murals and works of public art. As seen in much of their practice, Lee’s murals are marked by their rounded and interlocking depictions of multiple characters, usually nude with jet-black hair, creating a emotive and dream-like realm that deeply resonates with audiences. Ness Lee has presented major exhibitions at Centre [3] and Patel Brown galleries in Toronto  

The above work can be found in Toronto’s Underpass Park.  

 

Keith Haring: Art is For Everybody is on view now until March 17 and KAWS: Family until March 31, at the AGO. To find out more about to Toronto street art and artists, check out Street Art Toronto (StART)

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