To Ariana Papademetropoulos, a painting is a portal, offering the ability to peek behind a façade, access hidden information and visit unknown worlds, sometimes falling right in. A Los Angeles native who grew up between formal Pasadena and freewheeling Venice and now works out of a studio in Downtown LA, Papademetropoulos learned early on to reflect the character of the world she inhabited. In her growing awareness of the malleability of reality, art became a path by which to navigate these constructs fueled by image and myth.
MAMA Gallery is thrilled to present Ariana Papademetropoulos’ first solo exhibition at the gallery, Wonderland Avenue. Within this new body of work, Papademetropoulos explores surfaces both physical and psychological: A shiny stiletto boot poised on a man’s knee, glimpsed through a fogged window; a vintage magazine dream home torn away to reveal a variation on the same upholstered ideal; a woman on a bed, pictured before and after sex – at first, clothed and boldly beckoning, then naked and pensive, turning inward. In this context, Wonderland Avenue – a bohemian Laurel Canyon address at face value – becomes a stand-in for human fantasies, with their promises of transportation and transformation always shadowed by the id lurking in the corners. This duality was made manifest in the unsolved Wonderland murders of 1981, whose storybook name and porn star suspect lent a dark poetry to a narrative that, like so many Hollywood stories, already blurred the line between truth and fiction.
In a sense, duality is intrinsic to Papademetropoulos’ process. She is a pictorialist who uses traditional techniques to unexpected effect, working with a saturated palette and trompe l’oeil devices that create a hyperrealism bordering on kitsch. With this suite of paintings, Papademetropoulos has moved on from the water-logged imagery of her last solo show, in which the colors appeared to bleed off the canvas. Here, she plays with the one dimensionality of paper, creating “tears” that adds the illusion of depth – although even illusion itself is relative in this context. The oversized Another Picnic Painting, 2016 depicts a pristine midcentury kitchen slashed by a groovy, candy-colored picnic scene with shades of Hockney and Seurat. “Pick your fantasy,” it seems to say, while three nude portrait works, inspired by erotic lenticular postcards, give form to the limbo-state of female objectification, examining the act through a woman’s relationship to the viewer and to herself. Rendered in pastel hues, flickers of self-awareness feel more intimate than predictable pin-up posturing.
Creating a nearly palpable energetic tension with each piece, Papademetropoulos toys with the spectator’s emotions and desires. In one area of Wonderland Avenue, we can climb through an actual portal, where, in a boudoir-like sanctuary, we are encouraged to let down our defenses, and so become participants. But every painting invites us to become the “Alice” of this particular Wonderland–presented each time with the option of going down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, or simply remaining on the other side of the white wall. The choice is ours.