Gary Baseman’s art has been greatly influenced by global travel, attending and speaking at conferences and exhibitions, and best of all experiencing the people and places wherever he goes. Brazil especially played a pivotal role in how the artist began to see how life’s celebratory traditions (cultural, religious, societal, national) are filled with spirit, creativity, and community that Baseman pursues in his own work, especially performance-based collaborations that leave audience-participants with not just visual memories, but emotional ones.
Baseman’s Dream Reality was born in Brazil, where the artist had his first encounter with carnaval, a pre-Lenten festival with symbolic resonance and national significance that every year attracts a variety of local participants and international audiences. After the group exhibition Made in America (2008) at Choque Cultural in Sao Paolo, curated by New York art gallerist Jonathan Levine, Baseman traveled for weeks through Brazil, seeking the allure and social complexity of Carnaval. The parades of musical floats and elaborate costumes inspired many elements in his 2009 series La Noche de la Fusion. The opening reception of this exhibition included Baseman’s own festival where attendees became part of a ritualistic and celebratory performance, with music and dance. With the collaboration of dozens of talented artists and performers, La Noche de la Fusion manifested “a mythical realm in which boundaries set by society are dissolved.”
Dream Reality was the title of Baseman’s subsequent 2010 show in Sao Paolo. A recurrent theme to this day, according to the artist, Dream Reality is “an imagined and otherworldly existence that [he] considers more interesting and legitimate than ‘real life.’ This state isn’t just conceived and observed, but felt and lived within…. An alternative universe is created, [while an] exaggerated and poetic narrative emerges,” Baseman states in one of the essays included in his upcoming book Nightmares of Halloween Past (2022).