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Ariana Papademetropoulos Warps Archetypal Ways of Seeing with Ghostly Fantasies

View from Tower I, 2022
© Ariana Papademetropoulos; Photo by Argenis Apolinario; Courtesy the artist and Vito Schnabel Gallery

Unicorns are creatures from another world, but they are tied to the collective consciousness of humankind—present and absent at once, following the traditions of mythologies built upon reality. Today, they are symbols of a beautiful, perfectly imperfect fantasy.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Ariana Papademetropoulos would have painted them: Unicorns are, somehow, her emblem. The artist, too, is a creature from another world. After a childhood spent in Pasadena, California, she took on Los Angeles, not as a foreign entity—as so many artists who are not native Angelenos do—but as her very essence. The innateness of the city to Papademetropoulos’s work requires that her engagement with it be stronger than it has been for other artists. The milk of dreams the City of Angels feeds its protégés had to be condensed into her practice. LA is a place where fantasy and reality are not separate, but coexist as one ambiguous, complete way of life.

Painting does not belong to place. While Los Angeles is a persistent presence in Papademetropoulos’s work, she is not confined to it. Rather, she epitomizes the very fabric of life. The artist’s perfect images are not locatable—they create new space. Her depictions of the lives of unicorns are not abstract, nor are they deprived of context: Each of these creatures exists among invention, whether they’re within a complete room or upon a solitary piece of furniture. These settings invite the viewer to question reality—or to accept that its questioning is no longer relevant.