For his upcoming exhibit, Small Town, Toronto-born artist Chris Thomas combined his interest in urban decay with his love for graffiti, Lego blocks, and his adopted hometown of Fredericton.
A bar is not a typical setting for an art exhibition. But for an exhibit built around the idea of reimaging familiar spaces, the location makes perfect space.
On October 1, artist Chris Thomas will challenge our notion of home and place with his exhibition, Small Town. Using thousands of Lego blocks, Thomas has created a fictional take on some of Fredericton’s most familiar local businesses reimagined in a dense urban landscape.
What if Victory Meat Market was sandwiched between two apartment complexes? What if your local LC was a rundown corner store covered in graffiti? This big city verses small city dichotomy played a major role in inspiring Thomas’ latest work. That, and having a ton of Lego to play with, of course.
“My son started getting interested in Lego and one Christmas we spent $400 and bought a ton of it secondhand,” said Thomas. “There were little city pieces and townhouses. I thought they looked pretty cool, but felt I could make something more interesting. That’s when I got the idea to do a show.”
In some ways, Small Town is an extension of a broader concept Thomas began exploring nearly a decade ago. Following his interests in urban landscapes, Thomas’ earlier show, Hood Times, melded those influences into a series of detailed models.
Hood Times ran at Goodfellas Gallery in Toronto in November of 2014. The exhibit featured maquette-like interpretations of urban landscapes not unlike the type of tiny city models you might find at a model railroader convention. Except instead of clean city streets depicting imaginary communities all neat and tidy, Hood Times gave the concept a real world feel with litter, graffiti, and stripped automobiles dotting the streets and sidewalks.
Eight years on from his first show, Small Town continues some of that original concept, this time using Lego blocks to recreate some of Fredericton’s landmark businesses and streetscapes. with a twist.
“The stuff I’m doing now is all made out of Lego. I used to play with Lego when I was a kid but I never played with it from when I was a kid until now,” said Thomas, an established graphic designer and owner of a few clothing lines that feature his work.
The world of Small Town began to take shape prior to the arrival of Covid-19 and continued to develop throughout the pandemic as Thomas built and rebuilt the project’s numerous models and street scenes.
“Fredericton is a small city and things are spread out. I think a lot of this work has to do with
appreciating what we have here.”
“I’d make something, tear it apart, and make it again until I was happy,” he said.
That’s when the Fredericton aspect of the show really began to take shape.
“I made a city block and then thought, ‘what if Joe’s Diner was in Toronto?’ So I created something that looks like Joe’s Diner but it’s not Joe’s Diner. It’s a big city version of what that might look like.
“Fredericton is a small city and things are spread out,” said Thomas. “I think a lot of this work has to do with appreciating what we have here.”
The exhibition will take place above The Cap in a space that was once The Phoenix night club. No longer a regular part of the bar’s weekly operations, the room is now used primarily for private functions and special occasions. Like an art exhibit.
“My show starts at 1 p.m. and it’s a family friendly show for the afternoon,” said Thomas. “I hope some kids and some families will come by and check it out. Kill Chicago is playing later that night and Moonshine Creek will be serving drinks. It should be a fun day.”