Gentle Treasure Hunt: Joseph Lammirato’s outdoor exhibitions

PA070093Contributed by Ed Drass, Gallery Arcturus

Who puts art on telephone poles? I mean, seriously. These columns on art walks are about what’s possible to see from the sidewalk – but when is that the last time you expected to find public artwork attached to a utility pole?

In our area there are two outdoor “exhibitions” making use of these most overlooked of street fixtures, the wood or concrete poles designed to keep wires above us.

Travelling along Gerrard Street through Cabbagetown you may have spied wooden panels, about eye level and brightly painted, with miniature toy cars stuck in the centre. There are dozens of them, spaced along the north side of the roadway. You can follow these very public art offerings westbound all the way to Yonge Street.

Broadview Avenue is far more suited for a promenade than Gerrard, particularly along Riverdale Park East. If you can take your eyes off the amazing profile of downtown across the valley, look for more of those bright wood panels — this time with crude yet friendly metal stars and other shapes.

So again, just who does that? In the east end of Toronto, the answer may be Joseph Lammirato. By day, he’s project technician at Ryerson University’s Image Arts department. On his own time and for the last several years he’s been affixing art right where we can see it.

Lammirato has exhibited in traditional art venues – meaning indoors – but far more people have been surprised and hopefully a little delighted to discover his unsigned work on poles as far afield as Key West, London, UK and Butte, Montana. Gallery Arcturus (where I work) has mounted a show of thirty pieces — which then made their way out into the world.

He puts up work along main streets where few object; although the material does come in for a beating. Lammirato has had to rejuvenate quite a few works since lockdowns eased; one amazing sculpture at Church and Gerrard has had two nose jobs so far – the penguin’s proboscis keeps being knocked off.

Now that you’ve been alerted, look out for other shapes: the outline of a tree, a house, comet or even a snake. Most of the metal shapes are made in a simple backyard forge; the artist uses about 15 pop cans to form each one. If you are lucky, and walking down the right street, an entire human figure may appear up ahead – see if you can locate “King Hipster” on a north-south street a few blocks west of Cabbagetown.

There are vestiges of some early works on Parliament Street — you may see a few near the Menagerie pet emporium.

His series “One Sixty-fourth On Gerrard” refers to the number of pieces he originally put up (some seem to have disappeared) and to the scale of Matchbox toy cars.

His latest postcard flip-book is available at Gallery Arcturus. Find Joseph Lammirato on Instagram.

Ed Drass works in communications at Gallery Arcturus, a not-for-profit public art museum on Gerrard Street East. You can reach him at info@arcturus.ca

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