Interview by Ariel Pink
Portraits by Nate Walton
“Happiness is the meaning of life right?
So, to me, that means owning a beautiful, tiny monkey.”
— Ariana Papademetropoulos
Based in Los Angeles, artist Ariana Papademetropoulos is a painter and visual artist whose work manipulates found imagery to arrive at new psychological implications and a modern context. Papademetropoulos has exhibited her work in LA, New York City, New Orleans, Mexico City and Berlin. Her previous solo show, Wallflower at the Orgy, was held at Sade gallery, Los Angeles, and her upcoming show Wonderland Ave will open at MAMA Gallery in Downtown LA.
Stage name of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, Ariel Pink is an LA-based musician and producer known for his early foray into DIY, lo-fi sound and for his association with Animal Collective, whose record label put out his first albums. Beginning as a solo act in the late ’90s, Pink added a band in 2009 and performed under Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti until his latest release, Pom Pom (2014).
Los Angeles-born and raised artist Ariana Papademetropoulos paints from found, vintage images which she manipulates and renders large, ornate and vibrant. In her newest body of work, Wonderland Ave, Papademetropoulos evokes the duality of fantasy and reality: her paintings give the illusion of a rupture in the surface of one image as a portal to another behind it. Wonderland Ave takes its title from a bohemian Laurel Canyon address and also references the unsolved 1981 Wonderland murders featuring a pornstar suspect and Hollywood locale, as well as the classic Lewis Carroll novel that leads Alice down the rabbit hole. By blurring nature and artifice, tradition and modernity, Papademetropoulos creates her own skewed version of reality, evoking realms of fantasy, myth and historical allusion as ominous as they are sensual.
Papademetropoulos’ work has shown throughout the US and abroad, and she recently designed the sets for Ariel Pink’s latest tour. She and Pink go to the McDonald’s drive-thru and talk about everything but Wonderland Ave, opening March 12 at MAMA Gallery, Los Angeles.
Ariel Pink: Three large fries, one #1 and three chocolate chip cookies.
McDonald’s Employee: 15 dollars, 88 cents.
Ariana Papademetropoulos: Wow, 15 dollars at McDonald’s. That’s a lot of money.
AP: Why are you so far from the window? You’re a mile away.
AP: I don’t do drive-thru. I don’t know what this process is all about!
AP: It’s just too low class for you to follow the rules. What have you been up to anyway?
AP: I’ve just been barricaded in my studio. That’s it. Just in my little world.
AP: Where’s your studio?
AP: Downtown [LA] above those DJ and light show equipment places. What have you been doing?
In the early ’70s, artist Donald Judd, noted for his contributions to minimalism, came to possess property in Marfa, Texas and the surrounding ranch lands. He restored many of Marfa’s buildings, and The Judd Foundation now maintains these restorations and his private living and working spaces, most containing his own installations and collected art.
The Marfa lights, are glowing orbs that appear in the distance near Route 67 on Mitchell Flat, east of Marfa, Texas. They are described as stationary or moving and usually yellowish-orange, but have been sighted in various colors. Often attributed to UFOs and ghosts by onlookers, research suggests they are atmospheric reflections caused by car headlights and campfires.
Busby Berkeley (1895-1976) was a Hollywood movie director and choreographer known for his heavily devised and visually stunning musical productions. Popular on Broadway, these musicals often displayed numerous showgirls choreographed in intricate geometric patterns that appeared to move in a kaleidoscopic way.
AP: I’m in retirement. I’m going to a residency soon in Marfa (Texas) at the Donald Judd thing. Have you been out there?
AP: I went once when I was 15. I saw The Dandy Warhols play in a barn with chickens and goats everywhere. Donald Judd’s house is amazing from what I remember. Everything is exactly how he left it. You might get a little bored out there, but actually there are aliens that you should go see! They are called the Marfa lights.
“I relate more to mythical
dwarfs than animals.”
— Ariana Papademetropoulos
AP: What are they?
AP: They are an unexplained phenomenon that even the Native Americans saw, so they have been around awhile. You go out to a specific lookout point and can see them. Blue, green, purple, pink lights that are dancing in beautiful uniform. They meet up, split apart, come back together and then disappear. It’s like watching synchronized swimming or a Busby Berkeley film. I have some Texan friends who live out there, and they said the Marfa lights have chased them down in their cars—they’ve seen them in the rearview mirror.
AP: Yeah, I’ve seen flying saucers in Texas. It’ll be alright as long as there is Chinese food out there. I already made sure of it. I wrote in the contract that there needs to be a Chinese restaurant within walking distance of the studio.
Truth or dare?
AP: I dare you to answer question number two.
AP: What’s question number two?
AP: Is the riddle in the meaning, or is the meaning in the riddle?
AP: I’m afraid if I answer wrong something terrible will happen to me, like in those sadistic Japanese game shows.
AP: Which type of which animal are you?
AP: I’ve tried to answer this before, and I realized I relate more to mythical dwarfs than animals. A troll or a goblin is more like it. A weird little person.
AP: What is your favorite scientific discovery?
AP: I like that scientists genetically modified goats to produce spider web material in their milk. Goats with spider-silk milk. Also, how they’ve given the bioluminescent gene in some jellyfish to other animals. So now we have glow-in-the-dark kittens and sheep.
AP: What is the meaning of life?
AP: Just one divine mistake after another, but also maybe to own a tarsier monkey. Happiness is the meaning of life right? So, to me, that means owning that beautiful, tiny monkey. They are suicidal though.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990) was a CBS children’s television program that revolved around the child-like character Pee-wee Herman, played by Paul Reubens. The show was adapted from HBO’s The Pee-wee Herman Show, a popular stage show that contained more adult humor.
AP: If you were a genie, which genie would you be?
AP: The one on Pee-wee’s Playhouse because he disturbed me. There’s an episode where Pee-wee gets one wish, but he can’t think of anything and accidentally says to himself, “I wish I knew what to wish for.” The genie grants him that—Pee-wee knows what to wish for, but that was the end. That gave me a lot of anxiety as a child. I’d be that genie so I could hang out with Pee-wee and reverse that terrible day.
AP: What’s your favorite Schwarzenegger moment?
AP: All of them. He’s superhuman, and I think sometimes people forget that. I can’t believe he is on planet earth.
AP: Now for some incorrect or correct questions, or best of all, “I don’t know.” Do you consider yourself an artist?
AP: Do you consider yourself a bad artist?
AP: Who is better: Jackson Pollock or Picasso?
AP: I think I like Picasso.
AP: Wrong! “I don’t know” is the best answer for that one. I’m trying to get you to say, “I don’t know,” can’t you see? Repeat after me: I don’t know.
AP: I don’t know.
“All I know is that Tesla was a notorious babe
and always wore white gloves.”
— Ariana Papademetropoulos
AP: Excellent. Well, this is a lot of fun. Wouldn’t you agree?
AP: Oh, here’s a good question! Are you 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration or 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration? In other words, there’s an Edison school of thought and a Tesla school of thought.
AP: Well, Edison was just mean—always trying to make Tesla look bad, like when he held mass gatherings to make alternating currents appear dangerous. He electrocuted elephants, that evil swine! The first man to be electrocuted on an electric chair was done by Edison in an attempt to make Tesla’s alternating currents look evil, and it did. It was a slow, terrible death as the man sizzled away.
AP: Well, Edison, his secret to success is perspiration. And Tesla is the other way.
AP: Then I’ll choose Tesla.
AP: Tesla was a quack. A total quack. It’s way cooler to choose Tesla because no one wants to do the work, and the reason Edison rules is because he did the work. I’m a republican, though. I mean, I’m voting for Trump.
AP: You’re voting for Trump?
AP: All I know is that Tesla was a notorious babe and always wore white gloves. Women were crazy over him, especially this one famous French actress. He gave up women altogether, though, because he found them distracting. He had work to do. Can you imagine what it was like to have sex with Tesla? He was so fired up with all this electricity. I bet he was the first living vibrator. And he glowed in the dark! He’d have these electricity parties that Mark Twain would go to.
AP: Have you ever tried asphyxiation?
AP: No, but I got electrocuted once. I was bored in Greece at my grandmother’s, as she never let us leave the apartment. She fed us unlimited orange cakes and fries in her turquoise beret, but I was unamused. So I tried to understand why the elevator would move only when its door was shut. I saw these two buttons that the door shut onto, so I stood on top of a chair and stuck my little fingers on those buttons, and poof! Electrocuted. Flew right off the chair and onto the floor. It was exciting.