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Patterns by Jonathan Rotsztain

Thu January 23, 2020 @ 19:30 - 21:00


Join us on at the Museum of Jewish Montreal to celebrate the Montreal debut of Jonathan Rotsztain’s Patterns installation. Following our Self-Loving Jew comic making workshop with Jonathan Rotsztain, the Museum will be open to the public to meet the artist behind our newest window projection, and see some of the comics produced through his comic making workshop. 

This event is free and open to the public.

Cash bar at fletchers

Artist, writer, and cartoonist Jonathan Rotsztain’s visual narratives assert a contemporary, cultural Jewish identity. Patterns is born out of Rotsztain’s autobiographical Self-Loving Jew comic series – which reclaims the “self-hating Jew” trope and honours Jewish tradition from a contemporary and intersectional perspective. Built around a triptych of self-portraits and a projected decorative-arts-inspired pattern, Patterns subverts the traditional sequential comic format, presenting itself as a non-linear collection of experiences where distance disappears and time becomes almost circular.

In daylight, the series of life-size figures outwardly present moments of celebration, reflection and torment, which result from the cycle of processing identity, privilege and inherited trauma. After sundown, a motif of the artist’s neuroses appears, much like subconscious fears emerging in dreams. This pattern mirrors textiles used for household items like curtains or wallpaper—used to adorn while camouflaging stains. It invites a closer inspection, revealing thorny foliage evocative of a family tree, intertwined with totems of Jewish cultural heritage (challah loaves, tablets of the covenant, hamsas, serpents, and Leonard Cohen’s unified hearts).

The vermiculated foliage surrounds oblong vignettes. Depictions of recurring childhood nightmares, stirred by his grandparents’ experiences in the Holocaust, are contrasted with dreams of longing for a sense of home and rootedness. Other depictions include the artist embracing a Havdalah candle, which acts as the beam between scales–where icons of colonial-settler Canadiana are outweighed by a mound of earth with a tobacco plant. The artist clings to his Jewish immigrant heritage while adapting to contemporary secular values, and acknowledging the complexity of rebuilding a life from the ashes of genocide in a country which is still working towards reconciling the erasure of Indigenous peoples’ presence and contributions. Rotsztain ultimately reveals his many faces through examining the inconspicuous root causes of inherited patterns of behaviour and thinking.


– About Jonathan Rotsztain’s “Self-Loving Jew” comic series –

Jonathan Rotsztain’s “Self-Loving Jew” comic series asserts a contemporary, cultural Jewish identity. The work is a secular reclamation of the self-hating Jew slur. As published in the Canadian Jewish News, The Forward and Koffler Centre of the Arts digital platform, each comic book essay seeks to briefly explore a topic of religious significance while challenging and embracing the various contradictions of reconciling these practices with secular life. Self-Loving Jew comics are an engaging attempt to establish a new discourse that embraces a Jewish future based on knowledge and respect for Jewish religious practices while acknowledging an equal place for Jews of all orientations, backgrounds and value considerations. 


– About the Artist –

Jonathan Rotsztain is an artist, writer and graphic designer based in Toronto. He earned his MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont and has participated in the Yiddish Book Center’s TENT: Comics seminar and two Asylum Arts Jewish arts retreats. His artwork has recently appeared in the Zap! Pow! Oy! – Jews and the Comic Book Industry group show, Gateways group show at the Toronto Island Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and in his debut solo show Patterns at Toronto’s FENTSTER Gallery. His comics have appeared in Metro, Carte Blanche, Noah Richler’s 2015 federal election memoir The Candidate: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.

An earlier version of Patterns was commissioned by FENTSTER in Toronto. 

This event was made possible through the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s Grassroots Events program.


Thu January 23, 2020
19:30 - 21:00
Event Category:


Musée du Montréal juif | Museum of Jewish Montreal
5220 St. Laurent blvd.
Montréal, Québec H2T 1S1 Canada
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