Tuesday, November 6, 2012

FALL 2012 RECAP: A very busy fall at the Koffler!

It’s been a very busy fall at the Koffler Centre of the Arts – and we thank everyone for their attendance and support!

For the first time in the Koffler’s over 35 year history, we launched fall classes in visual art, music, dance and ceramics at three locations: at our home base in the Prosserman JCC, at the brand new Schwartz/Reisman Centre on Lebovic Campus in Vaughan (above), and at The Leo Baeck Day School (South Campus) in mid-town. To coincide with the official opening of the Lebovic Campus, we offered free trial classes for the month of September in our two gorgeous new studios.

We kicked off the fall season of cultural programs with a high energy concert by Mexico City's Klezmerson (above) at this year's Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront Centre on September 3. Embracing electronica, rock, funk and jazz improvisations over Klezmer themes from a and featuring Latin American influences, Klezmerson delivered an explosive concert that had everyone dancing in their seats! 


Next, was a standing-room only lecture by author Roy Doliner (above) at the Columbus Centre on September 6. Doliner, the co-author of the international bestselling book The Sistine Secrets, spoke passionately on how Michelangelo – a devoutly Christian artist – concealed in his work on the Sistine Chapel a vast array of secret messages including insults to his patron the Pope and a heartfelt call for universal tolerance and brotherhood, using Jewish symbolism and forbidden mystical knowledge.

Toronto artist Erica Brisson opened Local Colour Info Centre, her Koffler Gallery Off-Site exhibition at Miracle Thieves, on the corner of Crawford and Dundas Street West on October 4. Inspired by tourism information centres as well as the process of public consultation, Brisson set up a social space where passersby can share their personal interpretations of the city’s intentional or informal landmarks. Based on her discussions with each visitor, Brisson creates postcards that reveal diverse and subjective perceptions of the city’s visual identity through minimalistic drawings that recall blueprints or maps. The project continues until November 11.

At Honest Ed’s, our summer blockbuster exhibition Summer Special continued to critical acclaim. In association with the installation, we presented Honesty from October 18 to November 4 – a remarkable performance intervention written and directed by rising theatre-star Jordan Tannahill and starring Virgilia Griffith (above). Honesty was presented as a performance in two acts: in the first act, 'Honest Work' – a kind of 'invisible theatre' – Griffith moved through the store, quietly performing the real life duties of Honest Ed's employees. Visitors were encouraged to find Griffith in the store and engage with her, but she otherwise quietly went about performing her job as a real employee would. 

In the second act, Honesty came alive. With 'Honest Stories' Griffith performed seven different monologues in seven different locations around the store, leading the audience on a performance promenade. The monologues were based on interviews with real Honest Ed's employees – and Griffith shape-shifted between voices, transcending age, gender, and race in a moving, funny and poignant performance that left many in tears. NOW Magazine’s theatre critic Jon Kaplan raved about the performance, calling it “a truly heartfelt experience” and giving it 4 out 5 stars (NNNN).

We returned to the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) with Koffler @ the IFOA on October 28 featuring British author Howard Jacobson (above). Jacobson won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2010 for The Finkler Question, and was here to promote his latest, Zoo Time. In conversation with Dan Friedman, the Managing Editor of New York’s The Jewish Daily Forward, Jacobson spoke about comedy, being Jewish and the Jewish themes in his works, love, and literature. Watch a video clip from the event here

On November 1, the Koffler – together with Size Doesn’t Matter and Sternthal Books – presented Tamar Tal's award-winning Israeli documentary Life in Stills at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. The film tells the story of Ben Peter and his 96-year old grandmother Miriam Weissenstein as they try to save their historic photo shop in Tel Aviv from development. A huge crowd favourite at last year’s Hot Docs Festival when it debuted, Life in Stills did not disappoint. The film’s Ben Peter flew in from Tel Aviv for the screening and a Q & A after the film with Sternthal Books’ Ian Strenthal and the Koffler’s Valentine Moreno. A post-event soirée at the Victory Café followed. Proceeds raised from the screening will go towards the digitization of the store’s photos by Sternthal Books.

And finally – we close the Fall with the first concert of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra’s 2012-13 Season: Musical Crossroads, Sunday December 2, 3:30 PM at Temple Emanu-El. Exploring the intersections between Neo-Classical, Classical-Romantic and Baroque-Romantic periods, the KCO – which features acclaimed violinist and concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch – will take you on a musical journey to discover Mozart’s influence on Mendelssohn, Handel’s influence on Elgar and the inspiration that Stravinsky drew from both the Baroque and Classical periods. Advance tickets are available here – don’t miss it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A summer of press coverage for Summer Special!

Summer Special - the Koffler Gallery's latest off-site exhibition (see the previous post) - has been getting some amazing press coverage since opening in June.

A few of the significant reviews are linked here:

Nathalie Atkinson, "At Honest Ed’s today’s Special is art, not bargains", National Post, July 12, 2012.

Murray Whyte, "The Koffler Centre’s Summer Special at Honest Ed’s: Review", Toronto Star, July 12, 2012.

(Whyte's review was also re-posted here on Toronto.com)

Ashley McLellan, "Summer Special: A Sign of the Times", Canadian Art (website), July 5, 2012.

Michael Kaminer, "Honest Ed's Bargain Basement Art Show", The Forward, June 27, 2012.
Derek Flack, "Honest Ed's does a turn as an art gallery", blogTO, June 26, 2012.
Still lots of time to see the exhibition - it's on until November 11. Hours are: Monday to Friday, 10 AM – 9 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM; Sunday 11 AM – 6 PM.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Koffler Gallery Off-Site returns to Honest Ed’s with the group exhibition Summer Special

The Koffler Gallery of the Koffler Centre of the Arts is excited to announce its return to Honest Ed's with the new group exhibition, Summer Special!

Curated by Mona Filip, Summer Special is presented off-site at Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor Street West, Toronto, from June 21 to November 11, 2012 and opens with a free reception on Thursday, June 21, 6 to 9 PM.

The Koffler Gallery began its program of off-site exhibitions and installations in 2009 with the critically acclaimed exhibition Honest Threads by Toronto artist Iris Häussler. The Gallery returns to Honest Ed’s with Summer Special, after over three years and thirteen off-site projects.

Summer Special takes its inspiration from the trademark signs and show bills of Honest Ed’s, Toronto’s landmark discount store. Building upon the store’s tradition of craftsmanship, Toronto artists Corinne Carlson, Robin Collyer, Barr Gilmore, Jen Hutton, Sarah Lazarovic and Vancouver-based Ron Terada create new works that explore the visual vocabulary of commercial and urban signage, infiltrating the iconic building and its façade with site-specific installations.
Drawing upon the realm of advertising, Corinne Carlson translates popular culture images and words-as-image through her idiosyncratic, autobiographical filter. For Summer Special, Carlson creates postcards that mimic letterpress cards of days gone by, capturing memorable fragments of private exchanges that will be displayed and sold along with Honest Ed’s merchandise.

Over several weeks, Robin Collyer took thousands of photographs inside the store, in the uncanny light and near silence before opening hours. The resulting stop motion film reveals the commercial machine at rest and highlights the hanging, hand-painted signs. Collyer also creates a window intervention of price tags bearing exorbitant figures never before seen at Honest Ed’s, where the highest value is the inexpensiveness of the goods for sale.

Having culled the word 'Honest' from the familiar store signage for his Nuit Blanche intervention in 2008, Barr Gilmore plays once again the détournement game by scrambling the famous letters to spell The Son. While the evocative new sign allows for many interpretations, the artist conceives it as a self-portrait – an abstract representation of an only son, born with the Sun in Cancer. Placed atop the highest elevation at Honest Ed's, The Son becomes a radiant beacon and a sign of hope.

In her intervention for Summer Special, Jen Hutton references another historic Mirvish Village sign, that of Memory Lane Books, which used to be located at 594 Markham Street. The archway entrance of the store has long been painted over, but Welcome to Yesterday becomes an equally poetic idiom for Honest Ed’s today.

Sarah Lazarovic works with Honest Ed’s signboard artist Wayne Reuben to produce a series of hand-painted signs that capture Twitter musings on Toronto urban issues in the store’s unmistakable household font. The incongruity of transferring tweets – today’s most transient forms of expression – into the medium of hand-painted signage reveals its anachronism as a process intended for a time when things written were meant to last.

Transforming some of the store’s slogan signs located in Honest Ed’s alley, Ron Terada overlays excerpts from the eccentric catchphrases unto abstract patterns referencing Frank Stella’s Black Paintings. His new signs evoke two interconnected histories within the legacy of the store’s owners as both commercial entrepreneurs and champions of the arts.

For full exhibition and program details, please visit: http://www.kofflerarts.org/

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts. Special thanks to Honest Ed’s.


Exhibition: Summer Special, June 21 to November 11, 2012, FREE
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 21, 6 – 9 PM, FREE (reception at Honest Ed’s, 2nd floor, Men’s Department)
Location: Koffler Gallery Off-Site at Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. W., Toronto
Hours: Monday to Friday, 10 AM – 9 PM | Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM | Sunday 11 AM – 6 PM


June 21 to November 11, 2012 | Honest Ed’s, 2nd Floor, Men’s Department | Curator: Valentine Moreno | http://www.haeussler.ca/
An exhibition highlighting unique historic signs and records from the amazing archive of the store, celebrating its long tradition of craftsmanship.

Thursday, July 12, 2012, 6 PM | Honest Ed’s Parking Lot | FREE
Outdoor concert with The Pining, a local all-girl band whose junkie balladry and storytelling relates to life in Toronto, exploring country and indie-folk sounds with a unique contemporary urban twist. Presented as part of Fringe Festival.

September 30, 2012, 12 – 5 PM | FREE
Tour starts at Honest Ed’s, then departs for Blackwood Gallery, AGYU and Doris McCarthy Gallery, returning to Honest Ed’s for 5 PM. RSVP by Friday, September 28: 416 638 1881 x4249 or vmoreno@kofflerarts.org

October 18 to November 4, 2012 | Honest Ed’s, various locations | FREE
Performance intervention created by playwright/director Jordan Tannahill. Actor Virgilia Griffith shifts between diverse voices as a living record of the people who sustain the store, embodying the very essence of Toronto’s working class. Presented in partnership with Suburban Beast.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adi Nes: The Biblical in the Banal

On May 3, 2012, the Koffler Gallery will present an off-site exhibition of one of Israel’s most formidable creative exports—the photographer Adi Nes. Along with artistic contemporaries such as Sigalit Landau and Yael Bartana, Nes transports and translates an inherited past and conflicted present from an area of the world whose oft-publicized geo-political duress is not nearly as accessible to cultural outsiders as true understanding demands. What becomes apparent upon encountering Nes’ photographic constructions is an instantaneous alignment between the subjectivity of the viewer and that of the artist as creator—an effect defined by Roland Barthes as a “punctum”. That is to say, from within these photographic examinations of military life, national identity, and mythological narrative shoot details that “prick” the viewer, signifying something outside of the strictures of language. Something phenomenologically felt. In the name of his fellow Diaspora, Nes requests pathos and respect simultaneously. Should this first Canadian survey of Adi Nes’ photography prove anything, it is that he successfully garners both.

Featured as part of the CONTACT festival at the Koffler Gallery Off-Site, works have been drawn from multiple series of the artist’s internationally exhibited photographs, including Soliders (1994-2000), Boys (2000), and Biblical Stories (2003-2006). An arresting image from the last of these three, entitled “David and Jonathan” (2004), draws its subject from one of the Bible’s most poignant testaments to the weight of true friendship. Flirting with homoeroticism—as he does elsewhere with his scenes of young, cavorting militia—Nes here re-contextualizes David and Jonathan’s story by placing the pair under the shadowy shelter of an industrial overpass. The graffiti-clad concrete firmly asserts the scene’s contemporaneity and reminds us that biblical exegesis remains relevant both in the Promised Land and within Western societies’ most critical artistic discourses.

The anachronistic qualities of Nes’ choreographed scenes are indeed striking and enunciate a fact not immediately apparent: that the past is only understood through a mining of the present. "Elijah" (2006), another piece from Biblical Stories, presents the spirit of a prophet whose name is not only spoken every week during Shabbat rituals, but who also plays an important role in the Christian, Muslim, and Folkloric traditions. The photographer selects as a host for the personage of Elijah the kind of citizen urban dwellers encounter on a daily basis: the weather-beaten and poorly-clothed homeless. This absurd combination of sacred and reprobate incites viewers to truly consider the things we discard in our lives, be they morals, the wisdom of elders, or history itself.  Furthermore, it is impossible to ignore Nes' visual double entendrethe homeless here acting as a syncdoche for Jewish Homelessness.  Taken metaphorically, the encircling crows represent the constant predation of a culture and way of life that may not continue to have the means to rebuff threat.

Expounding on this point, threat and violence are turned on their proverbial heads in the majority of the images included in Nes’ Solider series. The photographer’s subjects run the gamut from youthful boys engaged in tomfoolery to tanned, languid bodies exuding homoerotic energy. Initially, the soldiers in “Untitled (Soldiers in Water)” (1999) seem to be carrying on a vigorous bout of water wrestling. It takes only a moment to realise that the target of the wrestling game, a light-eyed boy wearing a touchingly triumphant expression, is holding up not a sports ball but a military-issue rifle. Similarly, the iconic “Untitled (The Last Supper Before Going Out to Battle)” (1999) changes before the viewer’s eyes as they begin to notice how the soliders are posturing themselves, sitting a little too closely together to be casual. What is at once a moment of pause before the betrayal and death born by the photograph's title is also a casual, homo-social scene in a mess hall.

Visual and conceptual counterpoints are Nes’ forte and one that is particularly allied with his area of personal and cultural excavation.  The photographer continues an important conversation between Israel and the Diaspora that, as has been pointed out, hinges on the dichotomies of centre/periphery, home/homeless, and sovereignty/antisemitism.[1]  As these dichotomies persist within contemporary Jewish history, often resulting in collective identity crisis, perhaps it will be the catharsis of visual art that reveals a workable solution. If nothing else, Nes’ provocations of our notions of masculinity, heroism, cultural and sexual identity ignite both black and white fires in our hearts.

Rachel Anne Farquharson


[1] Shaul Magid, “In Search of a Critical Voice in the Jewish Diaspora: Homelessness and Home in Edward Said and Shalom Noah Barzofsky’s Netivot Shalom”, Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Spring-Summer, 2006): 194

Find this event on Facebook here

Adi Nes

May 3 to June 2, 2012 | FREE
Koffler Gallery Off-Site at Olga Korper Gallery, 17 Morrow Ave.
Curator: Mona Filip

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, May 3, 6-9 PM

ARTIST TALK: Monday, May 7, 2012, 7 PM
Eaton Theatre (Room 204), Rogers Communication Centre, 80 Gould St., Toronto
Presented by the Koffler Gallery and the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University

Monday, February 27, 2012

Koffler Literary Student Success

The Koffler Centre of the Arts has a history of strong literary programs: the Canadian Jewish Book Awards and the Toronto Jewish Book Festival (previously the Book Fair). A lesser known area of expertise is our amazing literary education.

Currently, we have two amazing faculty members: Allyson Latta and Kenneth Sherman. Allyson teachers Memoir Writing and offers private coaching sessions. Kenneth teaches Poetry and Creative Writing. More information at: http://bit.ly/mROfS1

We are very proud of our literary students who are active in the writing community. Some recent achievements of our students:

Tilya Helfield’s memoir Sweet Adeline, which was originally composed in Allyson’s memoir course was featured on Sunday Edition, CBC Radio One, 99.1 FM Toronto on Sunday, February 26. Listen to the podcast here: http://bit.ly/yVY4Sv (at 42:45). Information on Tilya’s process of writing Sweet Adeline can be found of Allyson Latta’s website: http://bit.ly/zC5C75

Heidi Stock, who has been a student in several literary Koffler courses, recently started up a poetry contest for as-yet-unpublished poets: http://www.aspiringpoetscontest.org/index.html

Lorynne Schreiber, another student in our memoir class, has had a piece accepted for the anthology Living Legacies IV: A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women. More information can be found at http://at.yorku.ca/pk/ll.htm

Congratulations to our students and we look forward to many more successes!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Flavio Trevisan's exhibition reviewed on blogTO

Click here to read a very nice review of Flavio's Museum of the Represented City in today's blogTO!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flavio Trevisan: Museum of the Represented City

The Koffler Gallery just opened its latest off-site exhibition at 80 Spadina. Flavio Trevisan: Museum of the Represented City opened on Thursday, January 19 with a packed reception of over 250 people.

Flavio has created a complete museum experience within the gallery space – including a gift shop, a curator’s office and a handy museum guide. But it’s his cartographic sculptures that really steal the show. Both large and small painted 3D maps hand-made from millboard, drywall and/or plywood of Toronto’s built urban environment, including its neighbourhoods, the PATH system, dead-end streets and more. They are fascinating, complex and beautiful – I found myself tracing places I knew on the maps, parks I had visited, apartments and neighborhoods I’ve lived in over my years in Toronto.

Flavio’s maps re-imagine the city as a collection of places successively shaped by and reshaping public ideals – he references the complex geographical, social and political histories that have influenced Toronto’s development over the past century.

He’s got a great sense of humour too. Within the gift shop you can find the board game, The Game of Urban Renewal (Special Regent Park Edition), featuring moveable building pieces and player cards telling players to “Assess the environmental impact of a new playground” and more. Game instructions include: “You can demolish a failed urban experiment and start again from the ground up. With no budget problems and no political agendas to cloud your vision, you can build bigger and better than any city’s done before” and “The game never ends. Continue playing until all players have left the game in pursuit of other interests.”

I won’t give anymore away – part of the joy of the experience is discovering the sculptures and maps as you are guided through the museum, from its opening photographs, to a peak out the gallery windows at a downtown skyline filled with cranes and new buildings, through the gift shop at the end with its cheeky multiples and hand-painted t-shirts.

Visit the Museum of the Represented City today and spend the afternoon exploring Toronto and its urban environment, shared histories and collective expectations.

Flavio Trevisan: Museum of the Represented City
Koffler Gallery Off-Site at 80 Spadina, Suite 501
Wednesday to Sunday, 12-6 PM

For more info on Flavio Trevisan: http://flaviotrevisan.com/