Ariana Papademetropoulos and the legend of the emerald tablet

The first thing you notice is the extremely dazzled carousel, covered in geode and faux fur, small but fully functional, studded with peeled and gem-encrusted equine furs. It has mirrors and a dismembered dragon and it glows and shines in a way that is both gorgeous and horrifying, superlatively rococo from Vegas. This work by Raúl de Nieves (who set a similar tone of ecstatic excess with its twist on stained glass at the Whitney Biennial 2017) both beckons and surprises. Best to give it a minute, step back and admire the paintings in the first gallery before continuing.

The Emerald Tablet, paintings by Ariana Papademetropoulos, installation view at Jeffrey Deitch (Photo by Joshua White /

The first room of this bespoke Jeffrey Deitch Gallery setup features a solo exhibition of stunning new paintings by Ariana Papademetropoulos – the artist who then curated the group show that takes place across the merry-go-round. Papademetropoulos is known to apply the realistic rendering technique of a perfectionist with an opium-dusted fantasy penchant for scenarios from Dreamland.

The Emerald Tablet, paintings by Ariana Papademetropoulos, installation view at Jeffrey Deitch (Photo by Joshua White /

His paintings radiate the language and logic of mystics and their allegories, poets and their enigmas. The sisters explore and linger at the mouths of dark water caves by boat, guided by underground starlight. A unicorn sits near the fireplace in the living room and brings all its flowers. There are lava flows, ghost nymphs, and rainbow bubbles like the one Glinda the Good Witch moved into.

Raúl de Nieves: When I Look Into Your Eyes I See the Sun, 2018. Beads, fur, acetate, lights, vinyl, paint, brass, plexiglass on a working carousel (Photo by Joshua White /

Back in the rest of the show, that garish carousel suddenly makes a lot of sense as your awareness has already been adjusted like eyes in the light. The procession of The Emerald Tablet features dozens of artists, including Papademetropoulos herself whose works draw direct inspiration from eccentric spiritualist traditions – in some cases Hollywood itself as the epicenter of transformation, a kind of portal to all dimensions and the place of an alchemical aesthetic that continues to inform contemporary occultists and illusionists of all kinds.

Ariana Papademetropoulos: A Mellow Drama (2021), oil on canvas, 84 x 120 inches (Courtesy Jeffrey Deitch)

The idea of ​​LA as a place where artists – not to mention millions of random people – have taken alternate paths to awaken and evolve body, mind and spirit is not new. A highly publicized, and yet in some ways almost unknown, example is referenced in the title of the show. Apparently the Emerald City in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz was a direct quote from a central text in the Theosophist tradition – The Emerald Tablet of Hermes, a doctrine on alchemy. Theosophy itself is deeply associated with its roots in Los Angeles and its continuing cultural influence, and Baum was a staunch adherent. Needless to say, this frames the symbolism of the Oz universe of spirit guides, witches, fire, water, poppy fields, hearts, spirits, and hidden truths in a new light since quitting. ‘they synchronized it with The dark side of the moon.

The Emerald Tablet, installation view to Jeffrey Deitch (Photo by Joshua White /

The exhibition then unfolds through a series of rooms. The first – the one with the carousel – is dedicated to an openly performative, spectacular and gripping popular culture on the borders of Hollywood magic and practical magic. A nude and headless fawn goddess covered in fur by Isabelle Albuquerque; a luminous abstract green vortex by painter Lucy Bull; a disturbing pair of naked girls in Spirit Boot Camp classics by Henry Darger; a terrifying new monument to the ancient god by Jordan Wolfson; and an undeniably enchanted figure / golem made of wrapped earth, yarn, wool, blood and prayer by sculptor Precious Okoyomon.

Precious Okoyomon: Psalm of my desert, 2021. Raw wool, thread, dirt, blood. Approximately 25 x 25 x 25 in. (Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot)

At the end of this cavalcade is a stand-alone installation by Jim Shaw, a theatrical canvas backdrop reused as the facade of a hidden interior. Take a stroll and be rewarded with the surprisingly spooky spectacle of giant garden gnomes praying in front of sacred quartz crystal obelisks. This heralds the third and final room, its liminal threshold bounded by dark lighting, walls of deeper colored fields and murals, craggy outcrop-like sculptures that sometimes serve as display units, all suggesting a slightly landscape. extraterrestrial.

Marjorie Cameron: Seahorse, ca. 1950-52. Oil on fibreboard, 49 x 34 in. (Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot)

This room, with its Beck design and ambient soundtrack, is described as a “reimagining of the Emerald City as a spiritualistic landscape” and the assembled works date back through some ancestral generations of LA artists. and regional to highlight the true depth of those spiritualist roots in the rarely exhibited paintings of LA’s most witchy of all witches, the Scarlet Woman, Jack Parsons / L kingpin. The love triangle of the murder and immortality of Ron Hubbard, Marjorie Cameron. Like folk surrealist Leonora Carrington, whose work is depicted here with paintings of Noah’s Ark (1962) and an artist’s Spirit Animals (1949), Cameron openly courted the presence of transcendent beings in her life. and his work.

Agnes Pelton: Face à Face, 1953. Oil on canvas 60 x 60 cm (Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot)

Agnes Pelton, who was recently the subject of a historic Palm Springs Art Museum investigation of her visionary work of the first half of the 20th century, is represented by a pair of works locating abstractions of the living energy field in observable landscapes, and in their insistence on the very real presence of a sensitive rainbow within our reach, urgently recalls the original works of Papademetropoulos which form the cornerstone and lead to the future of this wild temple particular.

Mike Kelley: Kandor 18B, 2010 (detail). (Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot)

Perched on top of the big boulders is the city’s beloved sculptural artwork in a Mike Kelley’s dildo-based glass bubble, and one of them contains a 100-minute video masterpiece of Unarius. Do you know Unarius, aka Stephan Yancoskie, under Archangel Uriel’s ship? Okay, so in the 1950s Ernest and Ruth Norman founded the Unarius Academy of Sciences on the premise that man is inherently psychic. The fundamental principle is that as lordly beings of light, it is the responsibility of each individual to be a benevolent presence in this life and beyond. In 1975 Unarius opened a school of work on karma and energy and in the 1980s a widow Ruth (think Glinda and Tammy Faye) continued to produce and star in a wealth of genius films – now cult classics – with auric, sparkling costumes, makeup, sets, sets, and truly inspired DIY special effects that, in their own way, fill the ultimate manifestation of Hollywood as an enchanted place where absolutely anything is possible.

On view until October 23 at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery; 925 N. Orange Dr., Hollywood; free;

Unarius: CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN CITIES, 1982. Video 3: 4 ”, 102 minutes. Directed by Stephan Yancoskie under the boat of Archangel Uriel (photo / detail) (Photo Shana Nys Dambrot)

Isabelle Albuquerque: Orgy for 10 people in one body no. 8, 2021. Mixed media, 20 x 28 x 66 inches (Photo by Shana Nys Dambrot)