A clock and two candlesticks rest atop a mundane mantel. The scene is entirely ordinary, aside from the locomotive train emerging, still steaming, from the fireplace. The blatant absurdity of this image is characteristic of the art of RenŽ Magritte, who was, in his own words, “always on the lookout for what has never been seen.”

Magritte’s paintings are currently on display through March 4 in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s feature exhibition, “Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images,” which explores the impact of the Belgian surrealist’s work on countless American and European artists since the 1950s. The show emphasizes the lasting impression that Magritte’s ideas have made on an extraordinary range of 31 contemporary artists, including Jasper Johns, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, just to name a few.

The installation benefits from its collaboration with Los Angeles conceptual artist, John Baldessari, who transformed the gallery space into a refreshingly playful, surreal world. The floor of the exhibit, a baby blue carpet dotted with clouds, echoes the sky motif found in Magritte’s images. Conversely, the ceiling is plastered with a repeated photograph of overlapping Los Angeles freeways. Literally walking on clouds, the viewer’s perceptions are turned upside down. Even the museum guards sport Magritte’s signature bowler hats.

The exhibition features Magritte’s iconic image of a pipe with the words “ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe) written underneath, an homage to the contradictions of artistic representation. What the viewer sees is not a pipe; it is simply a painting of a pipe. Magritte continually explores the juxtaposition between images, language and materials, challenging the viewer’s way of seeing. Playing with the scale of objects and the hidden relationships between them, the artist was a master of the unexpected.

Magritte’s images are compared, both obviously and subtly to the work of his contemporaries. Strolling through the exhibit, one must be careful not to trip over Robert Gober’s sculpture of a man’s leg, which protrudes from a wall onto the carpet, and is complete with khaki pants and a used shoe, not to mention Vija Celmin’s 6-foot comb, which is lifted directly from the array of objects in Magritte’s painting, Personal Values.

From rock album covers to famous paintings, the broad influence of Magritte’s work on contemporary art and pop culture is undeniable. The impact of the show, like that of Magritte’s images, is explosive. Thanks to Baldessari’s creativity and humor, the gallery space becomes an artistic playground for a wide variety of artists from different backgrounds. Standing next to the giant comb, atop a cloudy sky, the viewer cannot help but become part of the scene. Magritte’s paintings, rather than being overshadowed by the work of other artists, take on new meanings when surrounded by them. The surrealist miracle is how seamlessly it all fits together and at the same time, makes no sense at all.