Artist Theodora Allen’s work has long reminded me of the Major Arcana tarot or a deck of playing cards; her paintings, both intimate and grand, are worlds ripe with hidden meanings. This merge of the physical with the metaphysical produces an uncanny sensation in the viewer. One might reasonably expect The Lovers, The Queen of Hearts, or Fortune itself to emerge from Allen’s picture planes. Her exhibition “Solitaire,” up at Soccer Club Club, continues the exploration of the frictions between the known and unknown, the esoteric and the everyday, that she began in “Saturnine,” her first museum exhibition in Chicago, which occurred last year at the Driehaus Museum.
The exhibition traces the idea of “solitaire” through social history, linguistics, and popular culture. Using the word’s Latin origins (“solitarius”) as a springboard, the show’s written materials consider how the word has transformed throughout history; it once named a military tactical maneuver, a jewelry setting for a single stone, and the well-known card game. The exhibition’s epigraph is from Chrétien de Troyes’s tales of King Arthur’s court and describes the solitude of a knight’s quest for honor, enlightenment, and redemption.
In four of the six pieces that compose the show, Allen’s highly mannered compositions detail the heart, the club, the spade, and the diamond of playing card suits in a heraldic crest. The two remaining works are framed scenes of an arctic landscape; one bears a hand holding an orb, the other a drill bit bearing down on a lone heart. There’s a searching quality inherent to each work; through Allen’s exercises with light and tone, her luminescent white against shaded blue, viewers are given cause to wander and search themselves. Heed Allen’s call: See “Solitaire”—seek, quest, and find yourself.
Through 5/12: Mon-Fri 10 AM-6 PM, and by appointment, Soccer Club Club, 2923 N. Cicero, soccerclub.club
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