April 7, 2020
In Allen’s From Dark into Light, and Back Again I (2019), the outline of a diamond-shaped frame opens into the portrait of a woman, framed by waxen hair, whose soft jawline is turned upward from a bare elongated neck. The visage, whose features are barely articulated in hues of warm sepia, appears melded into the image of a full Moon, obscured by the texture of passing clouds. Surrounding the frame, moonflower vines and a coiled serpent are bathed in a desaturated emerald-blue glow. Is she looking away or looking back? As Sarah Lippert writes of French Symbolist Gustav Moreau’s Salomé Dancing before Herod (1874-1876), “She need not look, given that she is the object that is viewed.” Two similar portraits are inverted in Allen’s Refraction (One Million Dead Soldiers) (2019), a diptych whose source is a 1974 performance by Todd Rundgren of A Dream Goes On Forever. In a video accessible online, we see him at a piano, long multicolored hair center parted, adorned in a silver halter top, with blue eyeshadow in the shape of a robber’s mask across his gaze. Yet the reference in the portrait could just as easily be to a work by Dutch Symbolist Antoon van Welie, La Douleur (1895), whose paradoxical expression exists somewhere between suffering and ecstasy. Rundgren sings, “All is silent within my dream / a thousand true loves will live and die / but a dream lives on forever.” As Allen proposes, perhaps this is the fate of Eurydice: in the regeneration of dreams, she is eternal.