Graffiti Laws: 50 Shades of Grey


This series by Gene Mastrangeli was inspired by an anti-graffiti by-law put into effect in Toronto.  He’s on exhibition at convenience, a window gallery for experimental urban and civic art.


Mastrangeli notes that the method a property manager often uses to fulfil the legal requirement to remove or mask the graffiti within 72 hours is paint, “which almost never matches the surface that the graffiti was applied.”

grey-3While the eye can decipher 500 to 1,000 shades of grey, he questions why “there seems to be even less attention to colour matching than any other material surface” in graffiti clean-up.

grey4Concrete is a background, like any other infrastructure, Mastrangeli writes, so its grey colour is also seen as non-existent, meaning property owners and city officials regard it as unimportant to match reflected surface colouration (hue, tone, saturation etc).


Gene Mastrangeli is a Toronto-based artist who also practices architecture, interior design and fabrication. A graduate of the Master of Architecture program at University of Toronto, he also has a Bachelor of Fine Art from Concordia University in Montreal.

See more 50 Shades of Grey, here

Gene Mastrangeli’s website, here.

9 replies »

  1. Don’t get me going!
    I have thousands of shots of graffiti from the alleys of Toronto. I have not published most. I walk by a week later and there is an odd shaped patch of an un-matching wall color where the graf once was.
    I think …”is this better than what was there?”
    Fortunately in many cases I have the before picture in my archives. Many pieces were better than the ugly shades patch.
    I began to photograph the after patches for articles entitled “Before and After”
    Guess what? Now a lot of the painted over Graf patches have new Graf on them. I see now that it is a never ending story.
    Worse.. why will the property owners be fined if the graf is not painted over…. especially if they don’t mind, or even LIKE it? That is not right!
    Graffiti is a crime, sometimes. Sometimes what we do to rectify the crime is a crime, and becomes 50 shades of idiocy!
    & don’t get me going!


    • Resa – I am so glad you weighed in. I hoped you might. You have a particularly unique perspective. I like that you have some before and after pictures, but I’ve also often wondered why it has to be painted over if the owners don’t want to, especially if they like it. Thanks for this.


  2. For my dissertation research I hope to explore the cultural and artistic record preserved in photographs of ephemeral public art. This is another form of preservation, a sort of anti-record. I think the message here is pretty cool and I take these types of photos myself often because they look like canvases, actual paintings often. What a great post! 🙂


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