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Deadboy shoots for the stars in new gallery show

Posted by Kate Fane / April 9, 2012

Deadboy Street ArtStreet art has recently become a hot topic in Toronto, as Rob Ford's anti-vandalism policies and SPUD's retaliatory "War on Ford" have brought the debate over graffiti's artistic merit off the streets and into the galleries. While internationally-renowned street artists such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey have been able to sell their works alongside contemporary art's biggest names for years, the phenomenon is still relatively new to Toronto. Deadboy, the latest local artist to make it indoors with a solo show at Ossington gallery Don't Tell Mama, shows how difficult the transition can be in an uneven exhibition that proves street art needs something more than just topicality to be gallery-ready.

Deadboy Street ArtMuch was said about Under the Influence's controversy before it opened, with gallery owner Paolo Dalla Rosa advertising his initial anxiety about displaying certain pieces. But to anyone who saw SPUD's previous Don't Tell Mama show, or even recently set foot on a downtown street, the work will hardly be shocking. Deadboy's treatment of Ford is conventional, and consists mostly of variations on his infamous (and visually clever) Tweedledee and Tweedledum portrayal of Rob and Doug. Here, Ford is again made out to be a childlike, cartoonish figure in pieces like "Where the Stupid Things Are" and "Humpty Dumpty." Other than these simplistic parodies, the artist offers little in terms of political argument.

Deadboy Street ArtDeadboy's bio reveals that his foray into street art was the result of a kettling incident by the Toronto police during the G20, but local politics are not the dominant force for Under the Influence. In the spray-painted "Man vs. Food," a white man gorges on a meal while surrounded by starving black children. It's an overly broad criticism that provides more of a shock with its $3,500 price tag.

Deadboy Street ArtLikewise, the piece that most clearly hopes to be granted a "controversial" label is "REAL birth control," in which the provided solution is to shoot the pope. Yet hung directly across from the work is a series of apparently anti-firearm pieces that place guns in the hands of children. It's as though Deadboy was unwilling to commit to the incendiary message of his other work, or else just totally oblivious to the irony.

Deadboy Street ArtHere lies the problem with putting street art in a gallery. While each of these pieces could stand alone outdoors as a strong statement for their particular cause, their combination in a single setting reveals inconsistency on the part of the artist. Deadboy lacks a specific motive in his show, and thus the exhibit remains a collection of "influences" rather than a collection of work that demonstrates a unified voice.

Deadboy Street ArtDeadboy, who argues for his own artistic validity with stenciled takes on the works of Michelangelo, Carvaggio, and Rembrandt, encourages the debate between street art and high art. But his painted portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the fine-art superstar who began his career spraying graffiti, just shows his inability to follow Basquiat's lead in translating his message to the different medium. The anarchic spirit of street art doesn't need to be lost in its transfer to canvas, but its firm sense of purpose needs to stay.

Nevertheless, this show is well worth the visit. While Deadboy might not be able to cash all the cheques he writes with this ambitious show, it's clear that the artist wants to push the dialogue about street art beyond its mayoral reference points — and that's where it really gets interesting.

Additional Photos:

Deadboy Street ArtDeadboy Street ArtDeadboy Street ArtUnder the Influence runs until the end of April

Photos by Scott Snider



Real Toronto / April 9, 2012 at 04:06 pm
Deadboy is a JOKE to the entire Toronto graffiti/street art community. He puts his unoriginal garbage stencils, all over other artists work. I make a point of going over anything I see by this clown. Pay your dues. Respect other artists work. We all wish he had never seen the Banksy movie. I cant believe BlogTO bothered to even to a story on this wannabe.
Tony TIger / April 9, 2012 at 04:22 pm
This "clown" hasn't even figured out how to do a 3-colour stencil. Unoriginal. Boring. Get out of this game while you can.
James May / April 9, 2012 at 04:56 pm
This guy is a pathetic excuse for a stencil artist. I was flawed when I saw his video on and I can't believe BlogTO took the time out of their day to report on this crap. He's a no talent hack who thought it might be cool to try his hand at stencilling. Piss off and take your pretentious silver skull mask with you.

That racoon looks like it was done by a 5 year old.
Derek replying to a comment from James May / April 9, 2012 at 05:15 pm
And my daughter could probably take on Gehard Richter when it comes to abstract painting...

This line of reasoning — if you can even call it that — is bankrupt. One suspects the point isn't mimesis, so better to engage with the work on its own terms. There's still plenty of room for criticism when you do that.
pierre / April 9, 2012 at 05:16 pm
absolute garbage
ha ha / April 9, 2012 at 05:42 pm
So much hilarity! Where to begin where to begin

-Deadboy's pathetic/boring/chicldish little stencils about boring things poorly expressed and laughably executed. He has managed to make the talentless hack who did the Bizarro cartoon look like a genius.
-Real Toronto's passionate defense of the laughable/non-existent graffiti code of conduct
-Tony Tiger's implication that a 3 colour stencil is something special
-James May's highly amusing critique os the stencils, as if stencils can be done much better than this.

agentsmith / April 9, 2012 at 07:22 pm
"In the spray-painted "Man vs. Food," a white man gorges on a meal while surrounded by starving black children. It's an overly broad criticism that provides more of a shock with its $3,500 price tag."

That's what you call ironic. And not in the cool way.
Arthur / April 9, 2012 at 07:40 pm
I don't know the artist personally, but I do enjoy discovering his pieces. I don't understand the animosity towards him, but I'm not part of the art crowd.

His work appears relevant, cheeky, and provocative. For those who are critical of his work I would ask that you provide some links to artists you do favour.
Evan / April 9, 2012 at 08:40 pm
Wow, seems like a mini mr. brainwash style thing going on here. The artists hate him, yet there's his work in a trendy gallery, being reported on by art writers… Exit Through the Indie Coffee Shop?
Maude / April 9, 2012 at 08:43 pm
Wow. Some negative comments above Sounds like some bitter jealous artists to me. Should be happy a fellow artist is getting their 15 minutes of fame... get over yourselves regardless of what you think of this person's work.
Soren / April 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm
Better in the wild than on canvas -> Mr. Brainwashy
3LW / April 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm
them hater gonna hate
3LW replying to a comment from 3LW / April 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm
tech / April 9, 2012 at 11:39 pm
It says a lot about the commentators when your vitriol seeps so blatantly into your commentary. It's understandable that graff writers hate on Deadboy. His work is exciting, new, and becoming more popular everyday, while yours remains famous amongst a small and select group of people in this city. Deadboy's work is in the media because it engages people. It makes them talk. It's interesting. It's topical. It's not boring. You can hate all you want, but there are thousands of people who see his work via the internet who enjoy it. Relax fellas, there is enough wall space for all of you, just don't be angry if no one blogs or writes or cares about your work because unlike Deadboy, you are NOT fresh and you are not exciting other people. You did a piece in graffiti alley? You've been bombing for 10 years? Wow sick guy! Who outside of your Mom and Dad's Scarborough neighbourhood gives a f^&k?
Between The Lines Doc / April 10, 2012 at 12:59 am
More on Deadboy from Between the Lines. He was the first subject for our web series featuring Toronto street artists. The episode has been posted on mulitple sites internationally and has been a bit viral..
something replying to a comment from tech / April 10, 2012 at 09:24 am
"His work is exciting, new, and becoming more popular everyday, "

Yes, out of the thousands of people doing lame stencils, his lame attempts at one panel cartoons stand out?

"It's interesting. It's topical. It's not boring."

No, tries to be, no.

Uh, no. No they do not.
Ron Burgundy / April 10, 2012 at 09:48 am
@Real Toronto

I happen to know Deadboy personally, and know for a fact that he never covers other artists' fact he celebrates it. You clearly don't know anything.
yurt replying to a comment from Ron Burgundy / April 10, 2012 at 09:54 am
Angie G replying to a comment from Ron Burgundy / April 10, 2012 at 11:09 am
I've personally seen his stuff right on top of other artists work. He's the biggest no-talent wannabe on the block.
Shuter Entertainment / April 10, 2012 at 11:43 am
Deadboy remains relevant because his work is approachable, clear, and allows the viewer to have an opinion and join the dialogue. The toronto street art scene is growing, and deadboy, along with SPUD, are key contributors to this scene. Db, you are winning.

Lame / April 10, 2012 at 01:18 pm
Wow, his stuff is aweful!
ha ha / April 10, 2012 at 02:18 pm
Good lord it's amazing how people are cheerleading these children with zero imagination.
ll replying to a comment from ha ha / April 10, 2012 at 02:53 pm
Shhh, you little bitch.
ha ha replying to a comment from ll / April 10, 2012 at 03:06 pm
Wait maybe Deadchild will make a cool stencil of a little dog and write "little bitch" under it and put it on some low income retiree's garage door and then you can go instagram it and pretend you know a thing about art.
Annie / April 11, 2012 at 01:41 pm
You sound so full of yourself. Do you actually know anything about street art or just being a critic?
Ricki Lake replying to a comment from ha ha / April 11, 2012 at 01:51 pm
You sound like the biggest loser in here.
hateon / April 29, 2012 at 09:50 am
hate all u want. he sold a lot of his stuff. how much stuff have you sold? ya that's I thought. go cry in your mama's basement and complain to someone who gives a f*** stupid whiney haters
Mark / August 10, 2012 at 02:25 am
Deadboy is an idiot. what sort of wanna be sits and googles his name daily? What idiot wanders the streets of TO wearing a mask? This guy needs a kick in the teeth.
Erik / September 29, 2012 at 06:28 pm
With all this hate, why care about graf in Toronto at all? For fuck's sake, show at least a thread of love for your sisters and brothers or be just as bad as Pattison, IMA, and all the other champions doing our public art right now.
Me / September 29, 2012 at 07:39 pm
My brothers and sisters don't randomly vandalize other people's property.
Jason / October 22, 2012 at 01:38 pm
I love the hypocrisy of graffiti writers getting upset over people cutting into or painting on their pieces which they've done without permission on someone else's property. I love Toronto's graffiti and street art scene, for all its complexity, double standards, egos, energy, creativity, immaturity, beauty, and everything else about the subculture that drives it all forward. It makes the tours I lead into the alleys just that more interesting and enjoyable!
WOW / February 7, 2013 at 09:29 pm
What a fucking joke...

This is a prime example of someone latching onto a subculture, then abusing any "edge" it might have to gain some familiarity.

This guy is NOT recognized as anything but a joke by the graffiti and toronto art communities, don't for one second think that he has any legitimacy.

What he is doing is simply using Photoshop to make an image black and white then stencilling it, there's no artistic talent required WHATSOEVER to do this shit.


I know 15 artists who don't suck the medias dick in a desperate attempt to seem relevant who's work IS INCREDIBLE compared to this BULLFUCKINGSHIT FUCKFGOJVENjvj;krevr'nlevr'

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