AARON T STEPHAN LAUGHS WITH US
Aaron T Stephan’s work critiques the exclusivity of the art world with a dose of satire and a splash of eccentricity. A bit like a court jester, Stephan gets us to laugh about the art world while simultaneously acknowledging and appreciating its majesty. He invites viewers to be a part of the experience, encouraging them to find the humor in art institutions that, by accident or design, many find to be intimidating.
Stephan’s first solo exhibition at Maine’s Portland Museum of Art, on view through February 8, features works that exemplify his sardonic spin on traditional art. Two installations greet visitors upon entering the museum, setting an impish tone. “Off Mark” is a grouping of sculptural pedestals bent in bows that could either be reverent or ironic. The ubiquitous pedestals do not support sculptures — in “Off Mark,” they become the sculptures. Above the museum’s front door is “Spilled Paint #2,” garish pink silicone rubber that has the appearance of thick, viscous paint being poured down the wall.
These installations play with the conventions of the museum, traditionally a sacred, serene setting for works of great aesthetic and cultural value. Stephan shows his irreverent side by raising utilitarian objects to the higher status of sculpture, and by pouring paint on the pristine walls, rather than confining it to a canvas.