As its name suggests, “Veils” — a 40-artist group exhibition opening Saturday in the West Adams neighborhood of L.A. — offers interpretations of the physical act of concealment. But the show’s curators, Jhordan Dahl and Ariana Papademetropoulos, also made a point to stretch the concept, exploring ideas about public personas and the occult. The works on display range from Jeffrey Vallance’s 1992 series of clown makeup imprints on linen handkerchiefs to an eerie watercolor self-portrait by the artist (and occultist) Marjorie Cameron to “Long-Banged Angel,” an eight-foot-high Eric Yahnker drawing of Farrah Fawcett in her glory days, lustrous feathered hair completely obscuring her eyes.
“Veils” is the first collaboration between Dahl, 31, and Papademetropoulos, 23, both of whom are also artists. The show didn’t coalesce until the pair started thinking big. First, they secured a slot at the Underground Museum, a 6,000-square-foot space run by the painter Noah Davis, whom Papademetropoulos once assisted; then they made a wish list that included Wallace Berman, Robert Heinecken, Marnie Weber and John Stezaker – artists whose work is multilayered and embedded with symbolism. To their pleasant surprise, all the living artists agreed to participate and a collector offered to loan them a Berman collage from 1966. “That was the weirdest part,” Dahl says, recalling the cold calls she made. “I mean, who am I?” She had co-curated a Rudi Gernreich/Peggy Moffitt/William Claxton show at MoCA with Jeffrey Deitch in 2012, and she’s worked closely with Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, but this time, she says, “I wasn’t even calling from a gallery.”
Yet that renegade spirit is precisely what the established artists found “refreshing,” Papademetropoulos says. That and the allure of the theme. “People are interested in things that are hidden,” she notes. “What’s in that box, what’s in that present?” A number of up-and-coming L.A. artists made new works specially for the show: There’s a hanging sculpture of crystal, found objects and steel by Kelly Lamb; a silicone rug by Kaari Upson; a mixed-media piece by April Street using nylon stocking material and ink and a painting by John Knuth that was created by way of house flies ingesting and regurgitating pigment onto the canvas — a bizarre process, resulting in a surprisingly delicate finished product.
Davis’s space has hosted several small-scale shows, but “Veils” should put it on the map. Laid out as a series of interconnected rooms with a huge back garden, it invites interaction. For the duration of the show, there will also be a pop-up shop selling rare and limited-edition objects (perfumes from Régime des Fleurs, wearable veils by Aliona Kononova of Moë), and a series of special events.
One will be on May 3, when Vallance — who curated a show at the Andy Warhol Museum that played his own work off artifacts from Warhol’s time capsules — will host a séance to communicate with the bewigged one. Joseph Ross, the medium who will be facilitating, quickly allayed the curators’ concerns about Warhol’s willingness to take part. “Andy is already so excited about it,” he assured them, with one caveat: “It has to be the biggest event of all.”