Natalia Zubko

All Jokes Aside

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All Jokes Aside
Curated by Natalia Zubko
Featuring the work of Aimee Burg, Erin Burke, Jessica Cannon, Phillip Stearns, Aricoco
ART LOT, Brooklyn, NY.
May - September, 2011.


All Jokes Aside examines ideas of past, present, and future through a visual language of humor. Humor, not always of the laugh-out-loud variety, is seen here as a chuckle under one’s breath, something peculiar, or even playful. From memories of home & a tangled porch swing to a hand-made red, plastic gas- mask, each of the works uses humor as a method to investigate the depths of these concepts.

Aimèe Burg, Erin Burke, Jessica Cannon, Phillip Stearns, and aricoco make references to times, places, & shapes, but their approach causes these references to be slightly a skewed – asking the viewer to question the connotations behind those references and dig deeper into what is really being explored. The initial playful/peculiar feel to the works disarms us, allowing us to let our guard down, creating a space for us to engage with the propelling currents of the work.

Memories of Past, Present, and Future shift and at times become fluid. The work’s ambiguous states of being keep us on our toes, questioning, and wanting more. Is it or isn’t it? Will it or won’t it?

Erin Burke taps into the potential energy of a past memory that shapes one’s desire for the future. Burke is on a quest to find her future home fueled by past/preconceived notions of home & the history of Victorian, hand-crafted porches combined with her present “home” in sculpture (referenced by the gantry). The glittery, almost gaudy gown, hanging from the gantry, like a twisted porch swing, and the giant green wheels that the “porch” sits upon have a playful air to them and indicates the potential energy for movement or change, perhaps moving her closer to her future home?

In a parallel universe, aricoco uses her quirky, sometimes obsessively & intricately constructed garments, to continue her performance-based exploration of finding “home.” The delightful eccentricity to her garments & performances is analogous to the seriousness of her pursuit. In opposition to her past performances (in which her garments are dresses/bags/cocoons that she ritualistically carries/unfolds/gets in and out of), this performance, spurned on by the recent events of her native country, Japan, is a very practical endeavor. As her jumpsuit suggests, she is getting to work. Complicated feeling surrounding her idea of home becomes more prevalent. She has spent many years trying to stay in the US, escaping the confines of her Japan past, but now that the home she once knew is no longer safe, a renewed sense of it as “home” has surfaced. It is a contradiction as she feels as though she has lost her home but she really hasn’t. Performance is inherently of the moment, yet an urgency surfaces as to the future state of her home. aricoco has donned a home-made gas-mask (hot pink vinyl) before as a way to protect her from “nature,” but now, the use of this mask carries a more poignant message as radiation plagues Japan. Using a Geiger Counter, aricoco will attempt to ritualistically mark out a safe space around her. A radiation-free nest. Like her sweeping pieces in which she clears a path to “see” things better (usually about herself) she is now chasing the invisible stuff that shapes her present and subsequent, future ideas of home.

Jessica Cannon’s barge-shaped painting explores the history of the Red Hook waterfront and the newly booming cruise industry. Her saturated washes of blue, the stylized, almost Hawaiian-shirt-like foliage, and the detailed “skyline” on the waterfront create a fun, easy-going feeling of being on a tropical cruise. However, Cannon’s treatment of the paint and imagery points to a sadness, awash with eeriness. She not only leaves us questioning how she really feels about the new developments in this neighborhoods’ history but also asks us to confront ideas of past histories vs. current developments and where we stand (mentally as well as physically) in this ever-shifting landscape.

Aimèe Burg’s squat, truncated diamond-shaped monolith of the future has an undeniably solid presence, standing stoically, seemingly unemotional. But, it also has an absurdist aura about it. The work both attracts and repels simultaneously. One gravitates towards the shinny aluminum surface, reflecting our present state, yet the black, head-shaped void directs us to a mental space we may not be ready to explore. Burg’s excavation of a future place and it’s objects makes one wonder what is still left to be unearthed and what kind of place these objects came from. The monolith’s shape also points to where we ourselves will be in the future.

Phillip Stearns’ vine seedlings (morning glories, peas, wisteria, pumpkins, watermelons, etc.) planted along the lengths of the fence become a metaphor for these cycles and how we construct our ideas of past, present and future. What takes root? How do the systems in place combine with the new systems being introduced and how will they find balance? What may happen if one leaves it up to chance to shape the outcome? How do we know what we miss until it does not return the next season? Perception, assumptions, as well as one’s attentiveness to development, may factor into the result. Ultimately, regardless of one’s expectations, one has to have patience and sometimes perseverance to be ready for that precise moment when the bloom is revealed.

As night falls, the space reveals new levels of meaning. The saturated potential of the space and its objects is replaced by ghosted allusions of those references exposed in the blaring summer light: distorted and elongated shadows of home, mesmerizing reflections of blinking and shifting lights beckoning one back to the future or just an awareness into a present trance, looming shadowed foliage that appears to become tropical as the breeze makes the shadow dance.

Everything slows. What seemingly takes a dark turn actually becomes quite calming, reassuring, and almost magical, providing a place to rest before dawn’s springboard propels the questions that drives these artists’ explorations forward, and the cycle begins again: the delicate balancing act of past, present, and future.

Natalia Zubko