Aaron Brown likes to play with convention in subtle ways. Look at his paintings and you don't see flagrant subversion, but you do get the distinct feeling that something isn't quite right.
And what could be more conventional than a still life?
Brown's "Our Lady of Saturn II" depicts a metal statuette of the Virgin Mary atop an overturned glass, surrounded by a bell pepper, lemon, pair of scissors, assortment of writing utensils, a bottle and a belt. In the background is a poster of Saturn. The piece demonstrates the technical precision of traditional still-life paintings: the lifelike rendering of textures like glass and metal, the creases in the poster, the play of light and shadows.
But then you realize that those scissors, leaning improbably against the glass bottle, are precariously balanced on their pointed tip. The pens, pencils and paintbrushes jut out at weird angles and seem ready to roll right off the canvas.
"In a traditional still-life painting, the object is stability," Brown said. "I'm adopting that language but also injecting elements into it that sort of subvert it."
It's this juxtaposition of stillness and kinetic potential, the religious and the scientific, sincerity and skepticism, solemnity and fantasy that marks Brown's work. His solo exhibition, Museology, will be on view at Limbo Fine Art in Hillcrest beginning Saturday, May 7.
Brown is also having some fun with the exhibition's title, which refers to his series of paintings of the same name. His "Museology" paintings are moody depictions of museum interiors. The term refers to the design, organization and management of museums, but it also suggests inspiration and meditation. In both paintings and title, Brown sets up a dichotomy between the often antiseptic, alienating environment of museums and their informative and sometimes inspirational nature.
Beyond this play on the word and the institution, Brown also questions current approaches to the assessment of art.
"The quasi-scientific feel of the title supports the idea of analysis and displays. That in turn feeds into the idea of art itself in a museum setting, being on display and being analyzed in somewhat the same manner-that is, quasi-scientifically," he said. "Lately, there's been a kind of convergence of art and science. Especially in academia, there's a real pressure to adopt that kind of language and discuss art and justify art-making in those terms, which I find fairly problematic because I've always been very instinctual about how I make art."Museology, presented by Sushi Performance and Visual Art, consists of seven medium- to large-scale oil paintings that present a survey of Brown's work. A reception with the artist is scheduled Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m., and the show runs through May 29. Limbo Fine Art is located at 1432 University Ave. 619-295-5393.