Jason Andreasen can’t put his finger on it. Well, technically he can; unloading the carefully wrapped packages of art for the Baton Rouge Gallery’s annual “Surreal Salon” exhibition, says the gallery’s president and CEO, feels a lot like opening gifts on Christmas morning. But as for what emerges from these packages—strange landscapes of birds and blinking eyes, mythic reimaginings, abstract renditions of feelings unearthed from memory—he can never quite define.
Often described as the intersection of pop surrealism and the lowbrow movement, each year’s curated artworks cover a wide array of media and subject matter, and this batch is no different under the eye of juror Marco Mazzoni, a Milanese artist famous for his elaborate colored-pencil drawings. More than 500 artists submitted work for consideration this year, with the final selections representing 62 artists from 21 states and nine different countries. Among them is an original work produced by Mazzoni especially for the show: a dreamy, floral portrait that doubles as the exhibition’s official promotional imagery.
“Mazzoni was one of our dream jurors for this show, and we didn’t even expect to hear back when we reached out,” says Andreasen. “But we got a message back the next morning saying he was in. His only request was that, since he loves to eat, we feed him Louisiana food.”
Although the monthlong show has appeared on the gallery walls in various iterations for 15 years, not since 2020 has the exhibition’s most famous spectacle been allowed to return to public life. But on January 21, the Surreal Salon Soirée will renew its reputation as the most avant-garde celebration in the city, welcoming costumed cavorters to show off their art-inspired attire amid food, drinks and live music by Austin-based Golden Dawn Arkestra.
Since the gallery operates as a co-op featuring Louisiana-based artists during most of the year, this chance to involve locals in a broader art scene is exciting for everyone involved, says Andreasen.
“Biased as I may be, I think ‘Surreal Salon’ is a really unique show, and one unlike any other that you see in the Baton Rouge area,” he says. “Over the years, there’s been growing recognition for the show and the event as things that only happen in Baton Rouge, and I hope they’re things that not just us as a gallery, but we as a city, can be proud of for many more years to come.” batonrougegallery.org