The Urban Gallery was bustling last night with throngs of people piling in for the first solo exhibition of Stephen Tricanico, better known as Kleeshay. The abstract pop artist, who dabbles predominantly in acrylic on canvas, is known for his analysis of society and play on words, with his projected images overlapping and layers of messages coded within his works. As a prequel to his opening, Kleeshay had left four of his paintings, tagged with his Instagram handle, hanging off the fence by the tennis courts of Trinity Bellwoods park.
“People look at visual art and think ‘I don’t get it’,” he says of his work. “But why can’t it be entertaining? Why can’t people come in here and laugh? If they find something out they didn’t know before and have a level of entertainment, then I accomplished what I was trying to do.”
His work has been compared to the legendary pop artist Andy Warhol, and there have been parallels drawn between the two. Kleeshay’s depictions of consumerism and social identity are timely and do not shy away from socially taboo subjects. His incorporation of the female nipple, which has been a hot button topic, flips the issue on its head and places it front and centre for the audience to engage with.
“I don’t know any other way to describe this feeling,” Kleeshay says of his opening. “The best part about this is talking to people, or even watching them understand the piece, when they walk up and look then read the title, and I can see the look of comprehension on their face, that they get what I was trying to convey. They get the joke, they get the play on words, and to me, that was the point of it all.”
Kleeshay shows until Saturday, August 29th, at the Urban Gallery, 400 Queen Street East. Follow @_kleeshay #kleeshayart to keep up with the journey of this Toronto talent.