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In the Magazine: Louisiana Surreal Celebration

Juxtapoz // Friday, 21 Mar 2014
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Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine:

When it was all said and done, Baton Rouge Gallery's director, Jason Andreasen, asked what I thought of their Surreal Salon soiree, and I thought it was arguably the best party I ever attended. Having only read about the surrealist balls they used to throw in the 1930s with Salvador Dalí, Andre Breton, Edward James and the others, I wondered why this amazing form of otherworldly celebration vaporized—an art crime of the highest order!
 
When it was all said and done, Baton Rouge Gallery's director, Jason Andreasen, asked what I thought of their Surreal Salon soiree, and I thought it was arguably the best party I ever attended. Having only read about the surrealist balls they used to throw in the 1930s with Salvador Dalí, Andre Breton, Edward James and the others, I wondered why this amazing form of otherworldly celebration vaporized—an art crime of the highest order!
 
It’s hard to even imagine a surrealist ball comprised of 500+ people, 98 percent of them in costume. Hey, New Orleans knows how to party, and they party hard in dreamy creations. The music by "Russian mafia band" Debauche, replete with an undulating belly dancer, trilled sounds sweet enough to warrant double-platinum prominence. They played on a stage set up outside near a bubble-gum colored "Candy Land" created by local art collective, Elevator Projects, which is powered by the motto, “Art is always possible, often unexpected, and fully transformative." Virtuoso DJ Cameron Kelly added to the atmosphere with exquisite musical mayhem.
 
Baton Rouge Gallery provided a giant size Twister game and a crazy bouncy house, complete with Freudian jousting tools. In another surrealist party must, Exquisite Corpse, participants drew or added words to create a collective drawing while the paper was folded after each addition, resulting in a crazy composite cadaver.
 
This fantastically irreverent event, in its fifth year, was part of a collaboration between Baton Rouge Gallery and the Louisiana State University School of Art, conceived with the mission of engaging audiences in a multi-sensory art experience. LSU is the only university art department in the country that I know of offering anything like Professor Joseph Givens’ course in Underground Art, a class which explores modern and contemporary art that has emerged from outside the traditional historical canon. The course lectures will examine the historical contexts, counter-cultural influences, and artistic inspirations of symbolism, surrealism, fantastic realism, visionary art, psychedelic art, underground comix, outsider art, imagism, “lowbrow” art, pop surrealism, and street art.
 
LSU’s own Dr. Darius Spieth and Professor Joe Givens, along with organizing director Kitty Pheney, invited me to give a lecture, while the Baton Rouge Gallery appointed me as jurist for their annual group exhibition, Surreal Salon Six, to select one grand prize artistic work from the 180 national entries from 22 states.
 
Marcus Howell of Springfield, Missouri, who cites a “pretty negative outlook and sarcastic sense of humor” was awarded the grand prize for Those with Grotesque Reach and Horrific Intent, which is a musing on “the great economic collapse of the last few years… meant to deride the callous and cruel architects of society whose chief contributions are rampant greed, war profiteering and crony capitalism.” Skilled in the execution of dark imagery, his labyrinthine story and uniquely developed language of what he calls “mayhem and jackassery,” was so impressive that it rose to the surface, taking the prize over scores of competitive contenders and finalists.
 
Darius asked me to speak to several of his art classes at LSU, culminating in my final PowerPoint presentation that hopefully spurred the students’ quest for knowledge. But who knows? You be the judge. Check out LSU College of Art & Design’s media site.
Greg Escalante
 
For more information about Baton Rouge Gallery and Surreal Salon, visit batonrougegallery.org

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