The Underground Museum is one of those spaces that, once discovered, sets the bar as being one of the coolest alternative art spaces in LA. With a shop in the front, a large outdoor courtyard replete with a basketball hoop and a screen for showing film in the back, and of course a beautiful gallery in between, the Underground Museum is the ultimate multi-purpose art space. Located in the West Adams / Crenshaw District of LA, the space boasts a low profile, which makes it all the more amazing. Founded by artist Noah Davis with his wife, Karon, the space was meant to satisfy Noah’s desire to be involved in the art community as more than just an artist.
I had the distinct pleasure to tour through the space with Davis and Ariana Papademetropoulos, one of the curators of the Underground Museum’s current show, Veils. Davis told me about the space and how he designed each component and tried to source as much of the work, material and fabrication from the surrounding neighborhood, where he grew up. I also had the opportunity to interview Papademetropoulos, who curated the show with Jhordan Dahl. Read her answers and be sure to visit the space. Veils has been extended through June 12.
How did the idea for Veils come about?
The idea of the veil came through the process of identifying where my interests could collide within historical and contemporary work. The concept of the veil touches upon many subjects such as identity, illusion, voyeurism, politics, obscurity, and mythology, so it seemed like an interesting concept to execute, using a broad group of artists from different eras. I’ve found that what is not known and mysterious often seduces/entices/fascinates the viewer, qualities that the veil always possess.
How did you and your co-curator select work? Did you have specific artists in mind and then you chose work, or was it more about the individual pieces?
Jhordan and I both made wish lists of artists we wanted for the exhibition. Somehow, most of those artists turned up in our show! We asked a few artists for a particular piece that caught our attention, but we approached most of them because the veil was already one of the constant themes within their work.
Any favorite moments from putting the show together?
Many, actually! When I was planning to pick up two Wallace Berman prints from Diana Zlotnik’s collection, she surprised me with an original Wallace Berman verifax collage on her stairwell in addition to the prints. This was an exciting moment as it was the first work I picked up for the show and Wallace Berman is basically my hero! Visiting Steve Roden’s amazing 1940’s dome house was a highlight, along with spending the afternoon with the fabulous icon Peggy Moffit. As an artist myself, I’m usually confined to my studio for long stretches of time, and being allowed access into many incredible homes, domes, gardens and studios of artists and characters was quite the inspirational treat.
You’re an artist as well, tell us about your piece in the show.
The original image for my piece was appropriated from a postcard from a 1911 forest fire that I poured water onto. The water literally acts as a veil, sitting atop of the forest fire, obscuring it with tie-die like effects by spreading the colors underneath. It also exists as a veil in the sense of trompe l’oeil, painting a “mistake” with realism, acting as an illusion by confusing the viewer of how this image could be constructed as an oil painting.
Although I love all the work, my favorites would have to be Wallace Berman’s 4 Hands, Jeffrey Vallance’s Wall of Veils, Jim Shaw’s Video piece The Whole, Marjorie Cameron’s self portrait, and Eric Yahnker’s gigantic drawing Long Banged Angel.