It’s hard to not come back to Labrona‘s art. Not only because he is one of my favorite street artists ever, but also because he is one of those who continues to create the same way he has created since the beginning, year after year, for him, on the streets, on trains, with his friends. He continues to work and keeps up his generosity, without paying mind to changes that have disrupted the street art movement lately. For this, he should have the respect of all. Most importantly, he cherishes time spent creating with friends, because to create in the streets is also for him a real opportunity to share a good time with good friends. All the following pieces were done during last summer and fall, in Montreal and Toronto by Labrona with Troy Lovegates, Gawd, Monosourcil, Kim, Kat, Produkt and Mathieu Connery.
Over the summer, TurtleCaps, an artist originally from Queen, New York but now based in Montreal, organized a massive transformation of an abandoned building in the center of Montreal. “Cabane à Sucre” (“sugar shack”) was an open-air street art gallery. At the beginning, the goal was to produce something that would be set apart from other street art events in Montreal but inspired by (as at hinted in the title of the project) Hanksy’s “Surplus Candy”. Originally, the project was meant to be low-key. It was done in a private courtyard without permission. Midway thru, TurtleCaps realized that the project was the perfect platform to give visibility to some artists that get shut out of galleries and festivals because, “they are not considered cool or famous enough.”
In mid-August he called his close friends up and invited them to paint a dilapidated building hidden in the heart of the city, just for fun. As rumors of the project spread, more and more artists stopped by to join in. According to TurtleCaps, “It was incredible. Credit goes to everyone who took time and money out of their busy schedules to bring this building back to life before its inevitable demise to gentrification.”
That’s how 45 street artists and graffiti writers, but also illustrators and fine artists, collaborated over a 12 days span… doing their art in a 3 level courtyard. “I’ve made some good friends in Montreal, so a cool part of this is throwing these multiple artists that may not know each other, into the same space. To have a fine art painter rocking a wall next to a street bomber and they’re both having a good time, well that’s what it’s all about.”
Of course this is not the first time artists have taken over an abandoned building. The difference here is that TurtleCaps brought in a variety of artists, some that have nothing to do with street art and were painting on walls for the first time. Whether you paint full buildings, are famous in LA or known in Europe, if your work was lacking passion, the “unknown” artist right next was going to show you up. All-stars, ego nor press meant anything for those 12 days in the courtyard. It was just about the art, not fame or money, and that may be why it was such a success.
When I asked Jason Botkin about “Cabane à sucre”, he said, “I consider it a very special project. Its impact on Montreal’s underground art community (including a vastly diverse pool of voices) may not be understood for some time yet to come. I love how it’s drawn so many together, in a very personal and somewhat private way. Above all, I’m impressed by the efforts of TurtleCap to make this an amazing experience for all involved, in a spirit of extreme generosity and inclusiveness. I’m very touch and inspired by this project that he so clearly poured his heart into!”
According to Kevin Ledo, “Cabane à Sucre was a great excuse for me to jam in the same space as a whole bunch of amazing Montreal artists, doing their stuff without restriction. Graff writers, street artists, illustrators, and fine artists, side by side, the result is glorious!”
For Laurence Vallières, “TurtleCaps’ Cabane à Sucre is a group of friends who came together to talk, eat, drink a beer and paint! I ended up there by chance, one evening of ultimate creation. I borrowed a brush and some colors and set to work. I met new people and shared my artistic visions. Some were painting on a wall for the first time. TurtleCaps chose the artists based on his friendship more than his artistic tastes, and the result is impressive. There is nothing more communal and underground than that.”
Alex Produkt shares the same feeling. “It was a fun opportunity to paint in a cool hidden courtyard and hang out with a bunch of other Montreal street artists in close quarters, drinking, eating, painting, laughing together.”
Lilyluciole has a very personal vision and interesting analysis on the project. “I agree with the approach of TurtleCaps and I think some of the press has misunderstood it. Highlighting the exclusive featured works by announcing that you will never see this show was bad information from some journalists. Instead, we must speak of the desire of the organizer to create a unitary project. I wanted to join this idea. I think it was generous to offer this possibility of collaboration to artists who do not often or never get to meet. There were graffiti, street artists, sticker addicts and even artists who have never painted outside. This attitude goes against the trend of some Montreal’s people who create divisions such as those between graffiti and street artists. That makes no sense. In fact, I think it’s totally out as this art expression does not require contempt or violence. I hope other initiatives such as this one will continue to emerge in various forms.”
Artists involved: Adida Fallen Angel, Alex Produkt, Alysha Farling, Andy Dass, Anna Van Stuijvenberg, Antoine Tava, Axe Lamine, Bonar, Citizen, EtherTFB, FiftyTwoHZ, Futur Lasor Now, Fred Caron, Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka, HoarKor, Homsik, IAmBatman, Il Flatcha, Jason Botkin, Jonathan Himsworth, Kevin Ledo, Kizmet, Labrona, Laurence Vallières, Lilyluciole, Lina Kretzschmar, MAbstrakt, Mc Baldassari, MissMe, Ms. Teri, Okies, Pascale Lamoureux-Miron, Philippe Mastrocola, Stela, TurtleCaps, Tyler Rauman, Valerie Bastille, WaxHead, X-Ray, and EnMasse featuring Cheryl Voisine, Cyndie Belhumeur, Jeremy Shantz, Julien Deragon, Laurence Sabourin and Raphaël Bard.
It’s not really a surprise if I tell you that Labrona is one of my favorite artist in the Montreal art scene… I could probably say he is my favorite. so I am really lucky to have time to catch him on several projects this summer. First, just before the MURAL festival, Fred Caron, Kashink and him collaborated on a mural in Griffintown area. Second, he painted 3 doors during MURAL. Then there is this big wall he painted with Gawd in mid-July (above), and finally a beautiful series of portraits with Monosourcil pasted on the streets in June. Very stunning collaborations! And it’s only the beginning of the summer…
Even if it’s spring time, the action only really started in the streets of Montreal a few days ago. Aside from some artists who managed to escape the snow for some hot sand, most of them were stuck inside for months, as it has been the coldest winter since 20 years. Even so, street art photographer Space 27 caught some very interesting pieces during the last weeks (like this surprising installation of golden cans, above), that make me think that both spring and summer are going to be explosive in Montreal! I can’t wait to see it in person. Here is the street art work of Labrona, Gawd, Waxhead, Stikki Peaches, Jason Botkin aka KIN, Zola, Tôle, Mono sourcil, and a bunch of artists we expect to identify soon…
In Mexico City, Labrona and Botkin had a lot of fun painting a mural, wheat-pasting and exploring the capital. The mural was done at a school. Labrona said, “It was an amazing place to paint because all the children got to see us painting and maybe some of them will be inspired to try art. Also, when we were painting, the teachers brought there kids out to watch and draw.”
Artists in Montreal these days are stuck working in their studios or homes, since the last few weeks have been incredibly cold! So, what follows bellow were mostly done in the fall and early winter. Nearly too cold to paint on walls, Labrona and 500M managed to get outside for a few hours to paint a fresh piece, their first of 2014. Produkt also was very productive on the streets this fall, upping his street art game. And also works by HoarKor, Nixon (old piece, but great location) Gawd, FLN, Waxhead and Cryote. Stay warm.
This fall, Labrona spent two and a half months and a lot of energy painting an atypical mural, formed of 4 ceilings. He only had time to finish three of them, he was forced to stop by the arrival of cold weather. He will have to wait till spring to finish the rest. But what you are able to see actually is so beautiful I found it would be a mistake to not show it now! This last project of Labrona’s was a collaboration with MU and the city public transport, the STM, that commission a few murals to the mural organism.
It’s the second time Labrona has worked with MU (first mural here) and this time the space was more complicated to approach both physically and creatively. So, the result of his work is impressive. When I asked him how it was painting hours and hours, outspreading at 3 meters above the ground, what where the major difficulties, he explains it like this: “My face was pressed up by the ceiling so I could never see the whole of what I was working on. So I worked in squares, like a grid. That way, I knew where I was. I had to move the scaffolding around all the time to reach different parts of the ceiling. Basically I spent over 2 months lying down with my arm up in the air.” Regarding the public area, here is what he says: “Also, it’s a busy place so a crowd of faces seems like a good idea. Except the faces are still unlike the busy people moving all around.” so, that was it! 3 ceilings, faces, birds, and a lot of patience!
It’s already fall! Time is running out and artists too… The weather was sweet and warm at the beginning of the season, enough to have a comfortable atmosphere conducive to creation. A real indian summer that brought some good stuff in the streets. With the collaboration of my partner in crime, Space27, my eyes in Mtl when I’m far away, and with the support of some beautiful artists, the girls of Off-Murales, Labrona, Banksy…….. oh… WAIT ! WAIT ! Banksy was in town ??? No way ! No…no… it is BadVilx!!! phew… I can show you some street art works by Labrona, Vilx, Open Mind, The chief, Oh well!, MissMe,Qbnyc, Zola, Harpy, Lilyluciole, Scaner, Stikki Peaches, Mathieu Connery.
When Banksy announced today’s Better Out Than In piece this afternoon, people began running to a little thrift store on 23rd Street in the hope of scoring the deal of a lifetime. I would have run with them if I were in town. But luckily the thrift store was tipped off to what was about to happen. Banksy had just donated a “crude oil” painting. His crude oil series involves him taking old paintings, in this case one that he bought from this thrift store, and adding his own touches. Two early street artists, John Fekner and Peter Kennard, experimented with similarpieces long before Banksy, but Banksy has really pushed the idea and made it his own thanks to his habit of inserting his modified paintings in places where the unmodified paintings might normally hang.
This crude oil painting, titled The Banality of the Banality of Evil, features the addition of a nazi officer to the idyllic landscape. It’s in a thrift store that benefits Housing Works, a charity fighting “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.” Housing Works have put the painting for sale in an online auction ending in the evening on October 31st. As of this posting, the bidding has reached $157,200. If you’ve looking for a new Banksy and have $200,000 or so to drop, you can bid here.
While Labrona and Troy Lovegates (aka Other) were working on some beautiful murals in Montreal this summer, they found time to escape into the lowlands of the city, to continue to express their art, night and day, despite being exhausted by all the work they were doing on their own murals! (See the mural of Troy Lovegates here, and the one Labrona is now working on at the end of this post.) It’s always amazing to be in front of a mural painted by these incredible artists, but the pleasure is the same when you are front of an illegal piece in the street. Can you feel the sweet sensations of the summer? Anyway, I do! Meanwhile, Labrona took some breaks alone and with Alex Produkt and Troy Lovegates went out on some solo missions too… a great summer for all of them, actually.
Detail of the mural Labrona is actually doing with MU in Montreal (a large ceiling in 2 parts)