There are multiple types of humor: dark, off color, smart, subtle, and downright hilarious. I am particularly interested in the pause that occurs between the delivery of a joke and the smile that indicates someone “gets it.” Unlike contemporary art, where there is no single meaning to a particular work, with humor people usually either think something is funny or they don’t. As with art, however, there are subtleties regarding the degree to which someone wants to participate in or play along with a jest. So it is not surprising that humor in art has a wide variety of manifestations. Richard Prince uses Borscht Belt–jokes that continue to deliver head-shaking laughs after all of these years, even in serious art contexts. Matt Johnson and Sarah Lucas manipulate or reassociate everyday objects to elicit a knowing smile.
I greatly value the place of humor in art. When asked about what I look for in the artists and art I choose to exhibit, I often cite humor as a criterion. I am not looking for the roll-on-the-floor, laughing-my-head-off type of humor I seek from my friends or from entertainment, but rather an acknowledgment of the often absurd nature of life. Art that seems to know our everyday lives are tough; art that understands we seek solace as well as inspiration, insight, and yes, even amusement.
I think all of the works included in Funny. are. You may or may not find them so, and that is exactly the point. Art and humor are highly personal, highly individual. Yet we all recognize that the ability to hold an audience with an object or a joke—or both—is an ability imbued with immense power.
Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson is the Chief Executive Officer and Director, Chief Curator of the Aspen Art Museum. Six years into her tenure with the institution, the Aspen Art Museum is a revitalized, re-imagined, and dynamic institution. With well over 100 exhibitions curated during her career, Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson’s projects at the AAM include one-person exhibitions with Yutaka Sone, Javier Téllez, Pedro Reyes, Jeremy Deller, Aïda Ruilova, Friedrich Kunath, Mai-Thu Perret, Jim Hodges, Peter Coffin, Fred Tomaselli, Mark Bradford, Sergej Jensen, Mamma Andersson, Cathy Wilkes, Mark Manders, Haegue Yang, Stephen Shore, Huma Bhabha, Slater Bradley, Ian Kiaer and Mark Grotjahn. From 2004 to 2005, Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson served as the Chair of the Art Curatorial Department at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Archive. While there from 1999 to 2004, she was the appointed the Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator. In that position, Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson directed an active exhibition program comprised of eight MATRIX shows per season.
She curated more than forty early and important solo exhibitions of international contemporary artists such as Peter Doig, Tobias Rehberger, Shirin Neshat, Teresita Fernández, Julie Mehretu, Doug Aitken, Tacita Dean, Wolfgang Laib, Ernesto Neto, Simryn Gill, Sanford Biggers, and T.J. Wilcox. With more than 200 exhibitions presented over the last twenty-five years, the program has helped establish the careers of many internationally renowned artists. Before her work at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Archive, Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson served as the Assistant Curator of 20th-Century Art at New York’s The Jewish Museum, where she was successful at integrating "of-the-moment" contemporary art into the museum's exhibition program. Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in European History from the University of Pennsylvania, a Diploma from the Royal Society of Art, Christie’s London, as well as a Master of Arts Degree in Art History from CUNY Hunter College.