Avant-Garde Validation?

Salon des Refusés saves spurned artists from Lawndale Big Show rejection oblivion

Salon des Refusés saves spurned artists from Lawndale Big Show rejection oblivion

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Submission labels from The Big Show are used as the official labels at the Salon des Refusés. Photo by Steven Thomson
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Stephanie Saint Sanchez, "Das Vedëo Shar," VHS tapes, 2011 Photo by Steven Thomson
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Left: Cary Reeder, "Home Sweet Home," Oil on canvas, 2011 Photo by Steven Thomson
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The Salon des Refusés Photo by Steven Thomson
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An interactive sculpture by Mason Rankin features a viewfinder snapshot of a highway interchange. Photo by Steven Thomson
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The 330 artists rejected from the Lawndale Art Center Big Show are getting a second chance in the Salon des Refusés, curated by Emily Sloan at Gallery M Squared. Queens Museum of Art curator Larissa Harris (the Big Show guest juror) may have deemed their works unworthy of the annual Houston area survey, but that's not to say their works suffer from mediocrity (well, not entirely).

Set in the hushed former space of the historic Heights Theater cinema, the works are cast in an ethereal warm light against grave green walls. Owners Max Boyd Harrison and Mike Kubis loosely grouped the paintings and sculptures along themes such as texture and human figures.

"It creates a community type thing," says Sloan, who herself submitted a sign for the Salon des Refusés to The Big Show, knowing that it would be rejected and hung at Gallery M Squared. "I've met so many new artists, and everyone helps install."

Indeed, a visit to Sloan's Salon des Réfuses offers a peek into some of the city's underground artists who have yet to make it big. Some have even been admitted to the Big Show in the past, but were skipped this year. In either case, the arrangement reveals hints of Houston's artistic future.

Let's rewind 148 years and hop over to Paris, where a handful of avant-garde artists rejected from the official annual salon formed their own exhibition, the original Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Rejects). Many of these supposedly illegitimate artists have entered the canon as the game changers of late 19th-century art: Paul Cézanne, Édourard Manet, Camille Pissarro, James Whistler.

Would it be ambitious to say that the artists on view at Gallery M Squared will become icons of 21st-century art? Extremely. But there are a few gems to be had, some of which are voluntarily for sale.

Sloan launched her first Salon exhibition at a Bissonnet hair salon in response to the 2010 Big Show. "I thought it would be fun to see the work that is turned away, and put it in this historical context of the Parisian Salon des Refusés," she says.

Following a positive reception, she brought the show to M Squared owners Max Boyd Harrison and Mike Kubis.

"I wasn't quite sure if I'd do it again, and then people began to ask me," she says. "Redbud Gallery owner Gus Kopriva suggested this gallery, which is kind of salon-like too."

Soon, she received a phone call from Mark Chasen and Mike Rudelson, offering a cash price for a People's Choice award. "A lot of people wanted to make this happen," Sloan says.

Salon des Refusés: Artwork Rejected from The Big Show is on view through Saturday.