Sarah Lazarovic’s witty signs are part of Koffler’s offsite show at Honest Ed’s.
SUMMER SPECIAL at Koffler Gallery's offsite location at Honest Ed's (581 Bloor West), to November 11. 416-636-1880. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Koffler curator Mona Filip has found the diametric opposite of the stark art space: Honest Ed's, with its flashing lights and overflowing bargain bins. Installations by six artists whose practices involve text and appropriations of public signage pay homage to, and merge seamlessly into, the eccentric retail environment.
Outside, Barr Gilmore plays with Ed's exterior lettering style in a circular sign reading "The Son," an anagram of "honest"; Robin Collyer fills a small window with mysterious object-less price cards from $0.00 to $585,482,355,377.42; and Ron Terada places words from Ed's self-deprecating adages into black-and-white geometric Frank Stella-esque paintings.
Indoors, cartoonist Sarah Lazarovic has solicited Toronto sayings from contemporary wits at #TOmotto that are lettered by Ed's sign painter Wayne Reuben and hang above the housewares, one offering a "Free 12-pack of baby raccoons for every visitor." Corinne Carlson's set of enigmatic letterpress text postcards share a rack with images of the CN Tower, and Jen Hutton's sign riffs on one in Mirvish Village.
Summer Special is a kind of valedictory for Mirvish's retro personal style in the age of Walmart. How long will the funky bargain store monopolize a full block on Bloor? I only hope, when the Honest Condos go up - a Lazarovic motto reads "Don't just stand there, buy a condo" - that some of the signage and decor will be preserved.
A problem with the show is that Ed's outlandish bad-taste aesthetic, from the giant cuckoo clock to the big photo of a toothless employee, leaves cerebral text-based conceptual art feeling kind of tepid and wan.
An fine ancillary exhibit of signs from the store's archives includes a protest placard Reuben made for Anne Mirvish when a men-only venue barred her from an award ceremony for her husband.
Sadly, Ed's is one of the last bastions of hand-lettered signage.
After seeing this, I admit I didn't just stand there. I went downstairs and bought something.