Art & Architecture (and Lenore & Loulou)

24 November 2014 — I’m swivel-headed on the street corner, thinking how much sheer stuff piles into downtown public space. Architecture, for example — well, obviously, wave on wave of buildings. And art — if you’re lucky, or happen to be (as I am) at Shuter & Church streets.

N/E corner Church & Shuter, on NOW Magazine

Last time I paid attention, this side wall of the indie free weekly Now was covered with a mural for the upcoming NXNE event; now it’s … well, I don’t know what, but there it is.

And kitty-corner, a fine mural that’s been in place for ages. I’m pretty sure that’s Elicser’s work, at least in part, but I can’t find any credits.

S/W corner Church & Shuter, ELICSER not only artist??

Please note the built context all around (if I may be so bossy). It’s not spectacular, but it is indeed “wave on wave.”  Victorian & early 20th-c. brick in the foreground, with 21st-c. Toronto rising restlessly behind.

Noise also fills urban public space. At first all I hear is construction, mainly a thudding great cement-mixer, but with lots of secondary construction sounds, plus, off & on, Cars Expressing Themselves.

Then … nahh, it can’t be. The underbeat of a carillon? Yes yes. It’s sightly after 1 o’clock, and somebody’s carillon is weaving its notes into the aural mix. From St. Michael’s Cathedral, perhaps, right next door? Or Metropolitan United, to the south? Or St. James Cathedral, farther south again? (Church Street comes by its name honestly. Though it is also home to many pawn shops.)

Metropolitan United, I decide, as I walk past. By the time I reach Colbourne St., the air shimmers as St. James strikes the half-hour.

More architecture, more “wave on wave.” Something on Church has been blasted out of existence, giving us a fine but surely temporary view of the century-plus survivors on Colbourne itself.

surviving heritage architecture, Colbourne St.

I suspect they’ll endure, but oh how isolated they now are. I hope, with no certainty, that whatever goes in opposite will respect their style & scale.

Then a big reward: my newly uncluttered view across the Colbourne St. parking lot shows me a striking end wall.

opposite 43 Colbourne St.

I first think it’s the ragged remains — the delightfully, randomly attractive remains — of old posters. I think about Toronto artist Teri Donovan, who creates wonderful art that plays with the concept of Found Art such as this.

Then I go close (past the quotation from Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones), and see that it’s not Found Art at all, it is Art-Art. It’s a mural, a City Art Project — which in turn was a collaboration between Gallery Arcturus & The Foundation for the Study of Objective Art. But again, no artist credit. Boo!

close-up, mural on Colbourne St.

I have a downtown objective. I want to check some possibilities at Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), which gives me lots of scope for wiggling my way south & west. Pretty soon I’m on Wellington, approaching Bay St., the epicentre of our financial district.

golden = Royal Bank Plaza; black behind = TD South Tower, Mies van der Rohe

I’ve always loved this contrast, two separate towers of two separate financial behemoths, but how wonderfully they complement each other! The golden: Royal Bank Plaza, WZMH Architects. The black: South Tower, TD Centre, designed by Mies van der Rohe.

Still on Wellington, still tracking for MEC, but with a pause at more towers, condos this time. The entrance is framed by an art installation that, any season, is visual good fun. Today, there’s an extra joke.

The installation is Michel Goulet‘s Fair Grounds (2001), 4 pairs of stainless steel chairs & 16 tall poles complete with brightly painted aluminum flags. Here’s a view of the installation as such, not my photo, but lifted from draft guidelines for the Percent for Public Art Program, a paper I invite you to riffle, just to see how many good works of art this civic policy has added to Toronto’s streetscape.

Fair Grounds, Michael Goulet

Keep those chairs in mind. They’re seldom used — by passers-by, I mean — but they are always perfectly in place, because they are firmly attached to the pavement below.

Which makes one of them so handy, when it’s window-washing time ‘way up above!

art as window-washing anchor

Those guys are safe. Their scaffold is well & truly tethered.

I loop back east from MEC — didn’t find what I’d hoped I might, but it doesn’t matter. All a walk needs is a direction, which MEC supplied. After that, the walk looks after itself.

Another favourite bit of contemporary architecture back at King & University, I do love these angles.

Sun Life Centre, 1984

Another WZMH project, I learn later, this time for Sun Life.

I’m adaptable, I’ll stop for very small horses as well as very tall towers.

on wall ePlan (planning Alliance, regional Architecture)

Or maybe not a horse. Whatever, I’ve seen him a few times, and I like him. This one is also on King St., but a lot farther east, and — quite fittingly I think — on a wall of the offices for rePlan. Which is in turn affiliated with rA (regionalArchitects) & pA (planningAlliance), so all in all, they strike me as people who’d be quite relaxed about a stray graffiti horse on the side wall.

More favourite architecture, this time its own work of art, though with an extra helping of second-storey graffiti.

George St. Diner

I suddenly remember being urged to check out the latest additions on the back of the Queen East building that houses Wilson’s Fly Fishing Centre. It’s a stylish shop, albeit in the quiet way you would want & expect from those devoted to the art of fly fishing.

The back of the building, viewed from Britain St, is also stylish. In a different way.

fake door, “Harry Jenings Contractor”; back of Wilson’s fly fishing store

Last time I looked, the owner was carefully painting in the first arc of light beneath one of the (real, functioning) light fixtures. Now he has painted in both arcs, and added a door. That is, a “door.” The artistic concept of door.

Which bring us, finally, to Lenore & Loulou. I should say, “Lenore” & Loulou. Artistic concept is also a feature of the shop next door to Wilson’s.

It is a complete contrast to its neighbour, but equally niche-market: He and She Clothing Gallery. There are always costumed mannequins on the sidewalk, usually three of them, lolling with attitude,  setting the stage for the focus within — clothing & accessories for “performers of all ilks.”

Today I see just two mannequins.

He and She mannequins

Neither one is “Lenore” or Loulou. Just be patient.

I’m contemplating the tableau, wondering why the chair by the tree is unoccupied, when I have to hop aside because out comes mannequin # 3.

Once she has been settled in place, I introduce myself to the woman who carried her, say how much I always enjoy the displays. The woman is the shop owner; I ask her name. She gives me both. “She’s Lenore,” she says, as she adjusts Lenore’s red wings. “I’m Loulou.”

Lenore (L) & gallery owner Loulou

Later, online, I learn a bit of Loulou’s background: dad was an interior designer, mom was “an instinctive Dominatrix” & Loulou was and still is an exotic performance artist.

Urban public space is a wonderful thing.

Leave a comment

8 Comments

  1. What a wonderful city with its mix of modern and historic….and what characters you meet Penny 🙂

    Reply
  2. Nice post again (and again)!

    Reply
  3. Wonderful! Yes all you need is a direction!

    Reply
    • Yes, just a starting direction, and then you let it flow … About your own latest (I think) post: I never appreciated hot water bottles until I was handed one to slip between the cold, clammy sheets of an English mid-winter bed!

      Reply
  4. Thank you Penny, as usual so much interest and entertainment from your post. People in Toronto must be very tolerant of graffiti but then most of it is quality and it seems to me that the streets become an external gallery. I imagine that it certainly brightens the day for passers-by!

    Reply
    • City policy has 2, opposing strands: one supports commissioned artwork (& funds channels for commissioning it); the other cracks down on uncommissioned work, for e.g. making building owners responsible for the costs of removing it. Perhaps not opposing after all, perhaps complementary now that I think about it. We are seeing more & more fine work, but alas nasty vandalism still exists.

      Reply

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