Dig Baton Rouge

Keeping It Surreal

By Tara Bennett

Things are about to get a little surreal throughout the month of January at the Baton Rouge Gallery, a BREC facility (BRG). As a way to weave in pop surrealism and lowbrow art into the Red Stick, the gallery will display works of art that test the limits of imagination during the annual exhibition, Surreal Salon.

The exhibition will open on January 5 and will run until January 28. This national juried exhibition full of pop surrealism and lowbrow art features works from 60 artists representing 23 states, featuring more artists than ever before.

“It feels overwhelming,” said BRG Executive Director Jason Andreasen, recollecting how Surreal Salon began as a one night show open to only Louisiana artists. “It’s kind of staggering to think of what Surreal Salon has become when you consider where it started…We wanted to do something that was fun and engaging and different than anything else in the area.”

Going into its 8th year, the BRG has had an incredible response both locally and nationally, receiving 670 pieces submitted for consideration, ranging in media from video, textiles, sculpture, photography, paintings and digital art.

“Had you told us then that eight years later it would be what it is now, we would have laughed at you; we didn’t have any inkling it would have this longevity,” said Andreasen. “It’s staggering to think Surreal Salon has taken on a life of its own and there’s so many people who get excited for this exhibition every year.”

This year’s juror is Los Angeles-based artist Elizabeth McGrath, who primarily works in sculpture, and has shown in some of the biggest pop surrealist galleries in the world.

“In terms of her own work, she looks to find beauty in the grotesque and discarded,” said Andreasen. “I think a lot of people may look at her work and find it repulsive at first glance…but as you look at it and spend some time with it, the more you see the beauty in it. That’s part of what makes it so engaging because it’s so different.”

According to Andreasen, McGrath was somebody the gallery wanted to have involved in the show. Excited to put her stamp on the exhibition, McGrath was tasked with selecting from over 600 works to be placed into the gallery. The chosen works include just about everything for people to get lost in, ranging from paintings, photography, multiple pieces of video art, textiles sculptures, wood works, resin sculptures, printmaking and glass art.

“There are works that are very whimsical, some that are funny, some that are fantasy-related and then there are others that are absolutely disturbing and off-putting and might make you uncomfortable,” said Andreasen. “It runs the gambit and that’s what we hope the show will do every year.”

On Sunday, Jan. 24, McGrath will be give an informative and informal presentation at the BRG at 4 p.m. The lecture will focus on her own work along with the pieces that were selected for the exhibition. This event is free and open to the public.

There is also the much anticipated party, Surreal Salon Soiree, which will be held on Friday, Jan. 22. Headlining the night will be musical act Hank & Cupcakes, and artist collective Elevator Projects will also construct a one-of-a-kind outdoor installation for the Soiree. Also during the Soiree, the gallery will announce the work selected by the exhibition’s juror as “Best in Show.”

In honor of the exhibit, attendees will don costumes befitting the surreal paintings in the gallery, limited only by the reaches of their creativity and how much a papier-mâché headpiece could weigh. Previous years have seen costumes such as giant cockroaches, video game characters, mermaids and more.

“Every year the people who come to enjoy Surreal Salon are part of what people come to enjoy,” said Andreasen. “It’s amazing to think about how many people put work into these costumes and put in a lot of care and show up in these wild getups that they’re really proud of…It’s been a wild ride and it’s fantastic to see Baton Rouge get into the fun of it.”

Tickets to the soiree are $20-24 in advance, $25 at the door if in costume and $29 at the door if not in costume. For more info on Surreal Salon 8 contact the BRG at 225-383-1470.


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