Review: Paintings by Theodora Allen trippy but not trite

Theodora Allen paints in thin layers of oil, wiping away each addition before applying the next. The images that result are more visions than views. They have the consistency of meditations or memories, at once persuasive and elusive.

Her affecting work, at Blum & Poe, features snakes, moths and thistles, a spiderwebbed hourglass and a stringless guitar. All are presented within schematic internal frames of interlocking rectangles, diamonds and hearts.

The symbols come pre-loaded with mystical import, and Allen ups the charge substantially through her painting method, which sinks the slate grays, blues and violets deep into the linen surface, while bringing out the weave. The images appear faded, temporally and spatially remote, yet alive with the exposed linen’s delicate, celestial sprinkling of white.


Allen paints a wildfire whose fuel remains unconsumed by the sinuous flames. She paints rising triangles, akin to the spiritually ascendant forms of Kandinsky. Blake comes to mind, as does the hallucinatory radiance of Sharon Ellis, the wonderment of fairy tale illustration and the trippy designs of ‘70s album covers.

Allen is just one year past her MFA from UCLA, and this is her first solo show in Los Angeles. While the work flirts with triteness, it doesn’t succumb; its soft, hypnotic beauty is ultimately enchanting.

Blum & Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 836-2062, through April 18. Closed Sunday and Monday.