Who doesn’t remember Roadsworth, the artist whose quirky street-and-sidewalk stencils vaulted him into street art stardom in 2004 after he ran into trouble with the law? Since then, Peter Gibson—the artist’s real name—has made a living working in a perfectly legal capacity with City Hall and various other public organizations. Last spring, the Commission scolaire de Montréal commissioned him to redesign a concrete schoolyard at Bernard and St. Urbain; in the fall, the Ville-Marie borough invited him to paint a giant chess board at Berri Square.
The fruits of Roadsworth’s most recent effort can still be seen downtown, on Ste. Catherine St., where he was invited to use the street and sidewalk as his canvas. The result is a collection of irreverent stencils that bring to mind the best and most creative of the original work he performed in 2004 around Mile End and the Plateau. For the first time that I’ve seen, Roadsworth has added text to his arsenal, accompanying his simple imagery with pithy and often amusing phrases. “Défense d’afficher” has been written in the crosswalk at Metcalfe and Ste. Catherine; “Low Brow” is written above a zipper that is being pulled down, revealing something that seems vaguely naughty.
As always, Roadsworth’s strength is in his playful reimagining of city space. He builds on the officially-imposed lines, textures and symbols meant to regulate the way we behave in the streets and turns them into something cheeky and subversive. At St. Alexandre, for instance, he has made the outline of the intersection’s crosswalks look like the border of a swimming pool; at Jeanne-Mance, he has transformed the lines etched into the corner curb cut into the shaft of a Corinthian column.