For The Great Tally

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Playing Cards 1913 (detail), 2010 Oil, Playing Cards, And Leather Case On Canvas 22 X 24 Inches © Brennan & Griffin, NY
For The Great Tally

122 Norfolk Street
10002 New York
November 21st, 2010 - January 16th, 2011
Opening: November 21st, 2010 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Mon-Fri 11-6


I was thinking about magic and its relationship to painting through illusion and iconography.  Not too long after beginning to use these ideas as a foundation for my exhibition at Brennan & Griffin, did I find that my great-grandmother’s brother was a magician known as “The Great Tally”.

I decided to create an entire deck of cards and hand-paint them.  I played card games with artist and writer friends in Los Angeles and I even learned and performed a few magic tricks with them.  I wanted to create a large painting that would support these small paintings - the 54 playing cards.  This painting became known as “For The Great Tally”.

Because I was the creator/performer/player for this deck of playing cards, I wanted to make a counterpart painting that would hold a deck of playing cards in which I had no part in their life – “Playing Cards 1913”.  This painting holds a deck of playing cards from 1913 as well as the vintage leather case the cards were carried in.  I did my best to hold these cards as little as possible and I never shuffled or played with them.  The only time I ever touched them was when I sealed them to avoid oil penetration/deterioration and when I put them into the painting.

I realized the 1913 deck was missing the king of hearts. Not only did having an incomplete deck make me anxious but it also answered my question as to what the next painting would be.  “King of Hearts (Lost)” is a painting made and dedicated to the missing card from the 1913 deck.  The king of hearts card placed in the center of this painting was created by me in order to symbolically complete the deck from 1913.

A few days later I stumbled upon a playing card while walking in Los Angeles.  This card was the 3 of diamonds.  “3 of Diamonds (Found)” became the counterpart painting to “King of Hearts (Lost)”.  Some cards are lost, others found.  Some cards disappear, others reappear.

-Jeni Spota


Jeni Spota lives in Los Angeles.  She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.  Spota has recently mounted Solo Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA, and Kathryn Brennan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.  She has also had work included in Group Exhibitions at Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, the Santa Barbara Art Museum, Santa Barbara, CA, The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, among others.