Everyone’s version of reality is different in Baton Rouge Gallery’s “Surreal Salon 8,” especially in Victor LeBlanc’s “Digital Bath.”
In the painting, a sleeping woman draped in cloth is suspended in what the artist calls a metaphor for a world where everyone is so plugged in to technology that they’re creating their own realities.
“We might end up in a sea of our own creation,” LeBlanc says. “Technology is the tool with which we can create the world in our own image. We use it to regenerate different worlds, and I wonder where it will lead.”
The painting, one of 64 pieces by 60 artists from 23 states in the BREC facility’s 2016 national juried competition, is part of the Denham Springs artist’s continuous series of large works exploring this subject. He hopes to exhibit the others in a gallery show later in the year.
In the meantime, “Digital Bath’s” theme blends with those of the other works in this show, each creating its own brand of reality.
“This is the biggest ‘Surreal Salon’ so far,” says Executive Director Jason Andreasen. “We received an unprecedented 670 works from throughout the country, and our juror had the difficult task of whittling it down. What you’ll see in the gallery represents roughly 9 percent of the entries.”
Artist Elizabeth McGrath served as this year’s juror, selecting the works in a blind process.
As in past years, the piece named “Best in Show” will be featured in a 2016 editorial piece in Juxtapoz Magazine, founded in 1994 to celebrate urban alternative and underground contemporary art.
“We have as diverse a pool as possible in this show,” Andreasen says. “And, in addition, we’ve had some international interest with inquiries from Canada and Italy. So, we might consider opening this up as an international show in the future.”
“Surreal Salon 8” includes paintings, sculpture, textiles, jewelry, photography and video. Each piece is a journey into a different world, some introspective, others pure fantasy.
“We have everything from a 12-second video of a neon dress created by some artists to a coffee table in the shape of a rat trap,” Andreasen says. “We have artists in this region who work in this (surreal) genre, but you don’t necessarily see one show of artwork in this form here. ‘Surreal Salon’ is an interesting and broad look at pop surrealism and lowbrow art in America right now.”
Past shows have been juried by some of the genre’s biggest names, including Greg Escalante, gallerist and co-founder of Juxtapoz, in 2014, and internationally acclaimed artist Josh Agle, professionally known as Shag, in 2015.
McGrath continues that tradition this year, having shown throughout the world. She also has published two art books, “Incurable Disorder” in 2013, and “Everything that Creeps” in 2006.
And in keeping with tradition, “Surreal Salon 8” will be celebrated with the Surreal Salon Soiree on Jan. 22, where costumed guests will mingle and create their own reality among the artwork.
“Some guests visit the exhibit early so they can design costumes that are specific to a piece of art,” Andreasen says. “We’ve even had guests who create group costumes. This isn’t a party where the artwork takes a backseat — it’s in the forefront, and this is a celebration of that.”
And many at the party may not realize it, but they’ll be immersing themselves in the same digital bath as the woman in LeBlanc’s painting as they figuratively float on the waves of their mobile devices.
“We’re continually checking in and socializing on these small technological devices that we carry with us,” LeBlanc says. “They’ve become an inseparable part of our lives. I’m not trying to make a good or bad point about this, I’m just observing the trend through my art. We connect to any part of the earth through the web, and I’m watching how we’re getting further toward the complete submergence of humanity connected through this medium.”